8

Tony Peterson was starving for a cigarette as he and Richard Garner paced in the hospital waiting room. They had the papers for Victoria to sign and take legal ownership of Collinwood, but the hospital staff still refused them to enter Victoria's room. Sheriff George Patterson left her room still a bit unnerved by what his men had found in the upstairs west wing library. There were over twenty-six bodies in the room in identical stages of advanced decomposition including young Jason Pryde and he'd only been missing a week. The bodies of the whole Collins family had finally been found along with Joe Haskell, Jason McGuire, Tom and Chris Jennings and several missing teenagers and transients from the last ten years or so. Coroner Cyrus Longworth was going to have a field day trying to figure this out.

"Elliot," Dr. Julia Hoffman stuck her head out of the room. "You can see her now."

The tall intimidating professor stood up and placed his magazine aside before heading across the hall. Since the mystery began, he had been living in the Old House where his ancestor once worked for the Collins family. Some people called him a squatter for taking over the Old House, but Peterson and the other Collins lawyers never had a problem with him living there. Stokes had explored Collinwood several times, but he could not explain why he had never seen that room before nor why Carolyn had never presented herself to him. Had Carolyn been able to hide herself and it from him for all these years? If Victoria hadn't stumbled out of the woods near the Old House, he'd have never found it.

"Miss Winters," He sat down in a chair by the side of her bed and removed his monocle with Vicki looking up from her bed weary from her experience. "I'm Professor Timothy Elliot Stokes; I'm the man who found you."

"Did you find them?" Vicki asked as Dr. Hoffman stood nearby.

"We did." Stokes answered. "Police are still combing the house and grounds."

"I can't believe it." Vicki tried to lose the horrible images trapped in her mind. "I don't know how it all could have happened. I'm not sure it really happened as I described it."

"To understand what happened," Stokes's gravely voice began. "I think we have to go back almost ten years to when Matthew Morgan worked as manservant and caretaker to Liz Stoddard. He was extremely protective of Liz and her daughter and wanted to protect them both. After confessing to the murder of Bill Malloy to Liz, Morgan hid out at Eagle Hill Cemetery where he must have accidentally released something he couldn't understand. A great evil you might be compelled to call a vampire. The police found Morgan that night drained of blood below Widow's Hill, but he was not the only one to fall that way. Seven women died that way..."

"One of them was a waitress named Maggie Evans." Dr. Julia Hoffman added. "I had been called in to treat her for her injuries, but she didn't survive. Whatever was killing the women back then took her too."

"I suspected Barnabas Collins." Stokes continued. "But I couldn't prove it, but then after Maggie, the deaths changed. Whatever was killing the women of this town changed and went deeper, more sinister, sucking the life forces of both men and women. Eighteen hours after he vanished, Burke Devlin was found in his hotel as a dried out desiccated husk identified only by his dental records. The Jennings Brothers soon vanished, and soon after, young man named Jeff Clark. Two years after Morgan killed Malloy, all of the Collins family also inexplicably vanished."

"It was Carolyn." Vicki answered wearily as Stokes looked oddly at Julia. "She killed everyone."

"Carolyn?" Julia looked spooked.

"She tried to absorb my soul." Vicki answered trying to keep from falling asleep. "I don't know what she was, but for a brief second, I felt I was her. I felt... We were one and the same…" She took a minute to shudder from the facts and events from the last few days and refused to believe they had actually happened as they did.

"The term is succubus." Elliot remarked. "A female creature who feeds on human life forces to live forever and for various powers, but you needn't know that right now, you rest." Rising up, he glanced awkwardly to Julia as they left together, allowing Victoria to receive her rest and gather her full strength… Julia turned out the light as she left the room and briefly shooed away Garner and Peterson. Rejoining Stokes, the two of them continued down the hall.

"Carolyn?" Julia sounded skeptical her voice followed her down the hall. "But she vanished in the séance!"

"She must have brought something back with her." Stokes answered as they crossed behind a familiar man at the coffee machine. Things had unfolded just as he knew they would be as he glanced at Stokes and Dr. Hoffman continuing away from him down the hall. He turned and removed his cigarette from his lips to talk and add his final thoughts on this alternate reality for mainstream viewers who did not belong to this timeline.

"Despite her experience," The strange man added a postscript. "Victoria Winters did inherit Collinwood and eventually transformed it into a school. She never forgot her ordeal either as she was forever reminded of it by the hand-shaped burn on her leg. No mention of the bodies was ever made publicly either as Carolyn Stoddard seemed to vanish completely this time but not entirely. A few weeks later, state police found another desiccated corpse drained of life on the road to Bangor. So, if you're ever traveling through Maine, and you see a rather lovely blonde girl wandering down the road, I wouldn't stop to offer her a ride; you might not live to regret it. You can find this one labeled under "shadows" in one of the myriad files of The Twilight Zone."

END