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

Titania Tempest
7 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.

After reparking the vehicle, they meandered arm in arm along the pavement. Ahead, the streetlights blurred into soft lines of yellow light, reflecting in muted fractals on the damp tar, and the fog pressed close in thick waves.

“Proper spooky, isn’t it?” Dawn said in a hushed voice, leery of disturbing the unnatural silence.

Rosie shouldered against her with a smile. “I don’t know, I kind of like it… Just you and I and the cold, quiet night.”

“Wow,” Dawn chirped, tucking closer as they walked, “Since when are you such a bloody romantic?”

“What can I say,” Rosie replied with an expansive sigh, “you bring out the worst in me.”

Dawn giggled and then squinted up through the gloom. “Hey! I think this is the place!” She dragged Rosie to the left, towards a garish orange and yellow sign that flickered against the fog.

A bell jangled as they pushed through the door, and then a doorkeeper dressed as Frankenstein’s monster materialized before them.

“Oh, hi!” Dawn gushed. “We have a reservation, please — name of Clermont.”

The doorkeeper gave them a once-over and then, in a low, halting voice, offered, “Welcome… to the House of Horrors — ”

“I thought this was a maze?” Rosie interrupted.

“Oh, it is.” The doorkeeper blinked, slow and deliberate. “May I take your coats?”

“Thank you,” Dawn said, doffing hers and straightening her hat. She turned to help Rosie out of her anorak, which was caught on her wings, and then handed them over.

The doorkeeper waved them onward. “The House of Horrors is a self-guided tour. Simply follow the markers and try not to get lost.”

They drew away, but an insidious whisper followed them. “If you do… no one will save you.”

“What did you — ” Rosie whirled back, but the lobby was empty. “What the — where did that creep go?!”

“C’mon,” Dawn said, clutching at her arm and edging forward.

Rosie dug in her heels, shaking her head. “I don’t like this, Dawn.”

“Don’t be ridiculous — it’s all part of the ambience. Let’s go and see what’s inside.”

Still, Rosie refused to budge. “Why are we the only ones here? Doesn’t that scream suspicious to you?”

Dawn rolled her eyes. “Hardly. I specially booked us a window an hour before they open properly, because I know how much you hate crowds.”

“Oh.” Rosie vacillated and then unglued her feet from the floor. “Just an hour, did you say?”

“That’s how long the website said we’ll need to go all the way through.”

Rosie pursed her lips before sighing in surrender. “All right, fine. I’m sure we’ll survive an hour — but if we get murdered in there, I’m going to kill you.”

Dawn scoffed and tugged her onwards. Together, they approached the fabric-shrouded entrance, casting suspicious glances at the froth of spiderwebs hanging low enough to make them duck. As they neared, a black curtain opened of its own accord to allow them passage, and when they stepped through, it fell closed behind and plunged them into darkness. Dawn clutched tighter at Rosie’s arm, making her wince, but she made no move to loosen the pressure. They paused, waiting for their eyes to adjust, and a faint glow brightened slowly at their feet.

Dawn exhaled, looking down at the luminescent arrows. “Oh, good. Those must be the markers.”

Rosie glared at them. “Well, here’s hoping they lead us to an exit, and not to our doom.”

“God, you are the queen of melodra — ”

Dawn choked off as a shadow darted at them across the floor. She flung herself into Rosie’s arms with a shriek as a giant rat skirted their feet, scurried past, and disappeared into a crack in the wall.

Leaning back to catch Dawn’s eye, Rosie allowed herself an amused smirk. “So… spiders, yes — rats, no?”

Dawn disentangled herself. “Rats carry disease, Rose.”

Real rats,” Rosie countered. “I’m quite sure that was a prop.”

Dawn squinted dubiously after it and stifled a shudder. “Looked bloody real to me.”

They watched the hole in the wall for a moment more, but the rat did not reappear, so they turned their attention back to the pale markers on the floor. Edging along in the direction indicated, they paused often, keeping an eye out for more rats — and anything else that might move. As they progressed, the passageway got narrower, and the smell of old damp rose between thick, mossy branches that rustled at their passing. In the spaces between the boughs, red eyes blinked — too quickly to focus upon — and small shadows flickered through the leaves, seeming to keep pace. Somewhere in the distance ahead, metal creaked, interspersed by soft, tortured moans.

“God, this is creepy, isn’t it?” Dawn said with a delighted grin.

“Brave now that the rat’s gone, are we?” Rosie snapped back, feeling slightly claustrophobic. She glanced back the way they’d come — and a large shape ducked behind the bend at the limit of her vision. Grabbing Dawn’s arm, she hissed, “There’s something back there!”

Dawn followed her gaze and waited a beat, but nothing materialized. “There’s ‘somethings’ all over the place, Rose. That’s the point.”

They watched the rear for a moment more, but nothing jumped out at them, and, eventually, they found courage enough to continue. As they went, the grisly tree branches gradually gave way to overhanging rock that slithered with ghastly unnamed things, and the rough ceiling sloped lower and lower, until Dawn removed her hat and they had to stoop to proceed. The dripping walls pressed in, too, and Rosie’s breath came shorter as the feeling of being trapped grew strong.

“I don’t like this, Dawn,” she whispered, half-turning around towards the more open area they’d come from.

The lack of acid in her tone made Dawn stop. She circled around her, and her face creased as she caught sight of Rosie’s pale countenance. Laying a gentle hand on her arm, she gave a sympathetic smile. “Sorry, dove… Do you want to go back?”

Rosie took a deep breath to steady herself and then shook her head. “No, no… I’ll be all right. I just… need a second to breathe.

Dawn grimaced. Sheepish, she offered, “If I’d known it had small spaces, I wouldn’t have made you come.”

“It’s not too bad,” Rosie said, braver than she felt. “Let’s just push through here and then we’ll — ” She broke off, jerking her head up as movement caught her eye over Dawn’s shoulder.

“What?” Dawn asked, turning.

Rosie lowered her voice. “There really is something back there.”

“I don’t see anything,” Dawn said, squinting into the gloom.

They waited again, but, again, all was still.

“You’re starting to freak me out with that, Rose,” Dawn said. “Are you sure you saw something?”

“Well…” Rosie squeezed her eyes shut, opened them again, and stared down the dim passageway. “I suppose it is quite dark in here. Maybe I’m imagining it — to be honest, I feel like my senses are in overdrive.”

Dawn gave a breathless laugh. “Me, too. What say we pick up the pace a little bit?”

With Rosie in firm agreement, she resumed her position in front and pushed further through the tight squeeze, until, suddenly, it opened up into a large, pitch-dark room. Ahead, unseen machines beeped and whirred, and, cautiously, Dawn pushed through clutching ferns at the edge. She stepped from rough rock onto rubber matting, turned to offer a hand to help Rosie through, and then they dusted themselves off and tried to make out their surroundings. A fluorescent light flashed on suddenly, blinding them, and Rosie hissed as she shielded her eyes. But slowly, their vision adjusted, and then their surroundings swam back into focus.


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)


Is it ever too late for a love story? Dawn Clermont certainly doesn’t think so. Rosie Bishop absolutely disagrees.

The last place divorcee Rosie wants to be is on a Seniors Retreat in the Lake District. She’s determined not to have
a good time, but an unexpected reunion with an old friend thwarts her plans. Her armour of bitterness proves no
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.

As Rosie clings to the remnants of her sarcasm, something about Dawn draws her closer than ever before. Soon, their bond threatens to run deeper, but is the possibility of a budding romance worth risking their rekindled friendship?

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.