CHAPTER EIGHT— House of Horrors — A Dawn & Rosie short story

Titania Tempest
6 min readDec 29, 2023


The cover for “House of Horrors, A Dawn & Rosie short story”: yellow-orange sunset scene with black silhouettes of a witch on a broomstick, an owl, and the roofs of gothic town buildings.

Dawn let the paper she was holding flutter to the floor. “Let’s get out of here, Rose — this is a bit too weird.”

“Bloody right,” Rosie said, tossing her collection of newspapers aside. She cast about the room, and then stalked over and grabbed a chair that sat to one side.

“What are you doing with that?” Dawn asked, eyeing it as she dragged it over.

Rosie tucked it under the door handle, pinning the door shut, and then heaved a box of newspapers onto the seat to give the obstruction some weight. Next, she retrieved a broom she’d spied leaning against the wall in one corner, analysed a crook in the press where two metal rods met, and then pushed the bristled end of the broom through. She wedged it securely in the gap, leant on the handle until the head snapped off, and then examined the remaining long, pointed stick with a grim expression.

“I don’t know what this place is playing at,” she said, testing the weapon’s heft, “but if we’re going down, it won’t be without a fight. Here.”

Dawn’s eyes widened as Rosie handed her the modified broomstick, and then Rosie turned away to find something else that might be useful. On the far side of the printing press, she found a small pile of print rollers, and, picking one up, she brandished it. It was a little longer than a rolling pin, and about twice as heavy, and she decided it would do. For good measure, she grabbed another for her other hand.

“Right,” she said brusquely. “Let’s get the hell out of here!”

Dawn clutched her broomstick and nodded, following her as she stalked over to the next door. Rosie tucked one roller under her arm, turned the handle and pulled.

Nothing happened. Frowning, she tried again.

“What’s the matter?” Dawn asked from behind her.

Rosie’s scowl deepened. “Door’s locked.”

Dawn paled, and they turned back to the exit Rosie had barricaded.

“It appears the only way out is back through there,” Rosie said darkly.

“But… the Man is that way.”

“I don’t see we have any choice.”

Dawn released a shaky breath. “You know, this evening was supposed to be fun.”

“We’ll laugh about it when we get home,” Rosie promised, reaching for her hand to give it a reassuring squeeze. “Right now, though, let’s get that door open and — ”

The handle rattled, and she broke off. It dipped downward but was thwarted by the chair, and they held their breath as it slowly lifted back up again. A tense moment passed, and then, from the other side, a polite knock echoed.

“Are you stuffing kidding me?” Rosie growled. “He knocked?”

Beside her, Dawn squared her shoulders. “Well… might as well let him in.”

“Might as well,” Rosie agreed, settling the rollers in her grip like a pair of nunchucks. “You get the chair, and I’ll hold the line here in case he rushes us.”

Dawn eyeballed her, taking in the steely set of her spine, and then nodded. She tiptoed over to the chair, set her broomstick down, and then readied herself to pull it out of the way. Over her shoulder, she caught Rosie’s eye, and Rosie gave a curt nod.

Taking a deep breath, Dawn heaved the barricade across, and then snatched up her broomstick and scuttled to the side. But the door remained closed, and Rosie curled her lip.

“Well?” she snarled loudly. “What are you waiting for? Come in, you slimy little git!”

They waited a beat, but all was quiet, and the handle stayed stubbornly still.

“Sod it,” Rosie exclaimed, storming forward. “I’m far too old for this shit!”

She hauled the door open with a feral yell and then, with Dawn right behind her, burst into the small hall beyond. They flailed their makeshift weapons wildly, swinging in every direction, but didn’t make contact with anything substantial. At last, they paused, breathing hard, and looked suspiciously around the empty space.

“Where’d he go?” Dawn gasped, leaning on her broomstick.

“No idea,” Rosie panted. “Quick, pick a door before he comes back!”

“Right — wait! I’ve lost my hat!”

“Are you effing kidding me?” Rosie exclaimed as Dawn bolted back into the print room. “Leave it, damn you!”

But she was back in half a heartbeat, her sparkly witch hat jammed firmly down over her head, and she opened the middle door before Rosie could offer any further condemnation.

“Come on!” she urged after peeking through to make sure the coast was clear. “We haven’t got all day!”

“Says the woman who stopped in the middle of running from a serial killer to fetch her bloody hat!” Rosie yowled as she dashed through.

The room beyond was a corridor, too — dim-lit and littered with strange and tortuous devices — and they hot-footed along it as fast as their heaving chests would allow them.

“God,” Dawn gasped as they ran, “when we get out… of here… remind me to… start exercising… again.”

“No time… like… the present,” Rosie managed to shoot back.

The end of the hallway loomed, along with an extremely welcome EXIT sign, and Dawn swallowed a sob of relief as they drew near. They ducked around hanging chains and dodged distorted hooks that protruded from the walls — until Rosie’s wings caught on one and hauled her to a strangled halt right off her feet. Dawn skidded to a stop, spinning back to rescue her.

“Stay still, Rose!” she admonished as Rosie tried to get up. “I can’t get it loose if you’re squirming!”

“Oh!” Rosie cried, staring back down the corridor as their nemesis made another appearance at the far end. “Hurry up, Dawn — he’s back!”

“Hang on — hang on — almost… Ah — got it!”

Dawn pulled her to her feet, and they resumed their mad dash towards the exit sign. As they reached it, Rosie dived for the door handle — and bruised her shoulder when she gave the door a shove and it didn’t budge. She cussed, squeezing the sore point with clawed fingers, and Dawn stumbled to a halt beside her.

“It’s not locked, Rose,” she said, eyes wide with denial. “It’s not…!”

Grim, Rosie turned her back to it and squared up next to Dawn, lifting her press rollers to the ready in front of her. With an unhappy gasp, Dawn turned too, and her white knuckles stood out starkly against the dark wood of the broomstick.

Down the hall, behind the swinging chains and contorted hooks, the Man paused to take their measure.


Thank you for reading! 🥰 This short story is a just-for-fun Halloween romp featuring the main characters from the novel PAPER DAFFODILS. If you enjoy hanging out with Dawn & Rosie, please check out their book on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited!

The cover of the novel PAPER DAFFODILS. Purple background remniscent of crumpled paper, overlain with a large yellow daffodil, the title of the book, and the author’s name (Titania Tempest)


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match for the spirited widow Dawn; dragged through a whirlwind of adventures and betrayed by her own sense of humour, Rosie soon realises she hasn’t got a hope of staying sullen.

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Get it here!



Titania Tempest

Author of Paper Daffodils, a sweet and sassy late-life lesbian romcom. Also currently working on a High Fantasy trilogy featuring sapphic sorceresses.