CHAPTER NINE — 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.

This time, his approach was purposeful. He did not move in fits and starts, but instead with smooth, measured strides, and, when he was about halfway down, he finally took his hands out of his pockets. In one, he held a knife, and in the other, a length of chain — and beneath the sweep of his cap’s shadow, a strange, frightening smile tightened his lips.

Shoulder to shoulder, Dawn and Rosie watched him come.

“I just want you to know, Rose,” Dawn whispered bleakly, not dropping her gaze from the Man for an instant, “that I’m grateful for all the time we’ve had — and especially for the bit after our reunion. I never expected things to happen between us the way they did, but it’s been heaven.”

Rosie gritted her teeth. “You sound like you’ve given up on us.”

“Well, in case you haven’t quite realised, there’s a psychopath bearing down on us with a knife — and we’re really just two old ladies, you know.”

“I’m offended by that,” Rosie clipped.

Dawn managed a grim smile. “Of course you are.”

“Shut up, now, and let me concentrate.”

The Man was getting closer, and Rosie tightened her grip on her makeshift weapons. When he was only a few metres away, a small whimper escaped Dawn, and Rosie stepped in front of her. She set her stance and sent up a quick, silent prayer to anything that might be out there — and the door cracked open behind them. Suddenly, Dawn was hauling her backwards, and they tumbled through the doorway into garish light beyond. Dawn kicked the door shut with her foot and then dragged herself up to throw her weight against it, and Rosie rolled over to lie against the base as Dawn fumbled with the lock. It clicked, and then Dawn flopped down onto her bottom beside Rosie, and they stared open-mouthed as they realised they were back in the entrance lobby.

“Holy shit…” Dawn gasped. “We made it out!”

Rosie shifted to sit upright with a hand pressed over her thundering heart. “How in the hell did you get the door open?”

“I didn’t…” Dawn said with a bemused shake of her head. “It opened by itself.”

“Well, I’m stuffing glad you noticed. Christ, that was a close call.”

“Sorry,” Dawn replied sheepishly. “That’s the last Halloween activity I sign us up for, I promise.”

“That’s the last any activity you sign us up for,” Rosie corrected. She got to her feet with a groan and then reached out a hand to help Dawn up, too. “Have you forgotten we’re sixty-odd? We’re supposed to be slowing down, not running from bloody serial killers!”

Dawn grinned and fixed her hat. “Don’t be ridiculous — if we slowed down, you’d die of boredom.”

Rosie rolled her eyes. “Doesn’t mean you have to bloody try and do me in with these wild shenanigans. Come on, now, let’s find our way out of here — I could use a stiff drink.”

“Ooo! There’s a place not far from here that does the best Halloween cocktails!”

“No,” Rosie snapped. “Absolutely bloody not. We’re going home.”

“Aww, c’mon, Rose, the night is still — oh. Hi, again.”

Rosie looked up as Dawn shifted her attention midsentence. Frankenstein’s monstrous doorkeeper had reappeared and was approaching them at a shuffling walk.

“Ah, here you are,” the doorkeeper said, in the same low, halting tone as before. “Pleased to see you found your way. I trust you enjoyed yourselves?”

Rosie puffed up like an angry hen. “Enjoyed ourselves? We nearly died in there!”

Dawn put her hands on her hips. “Yes — who the hell was that strange man in there? Did you know he was stalking us through?”

“Strange man…?” The doorkeeper’s gaze lifted above their heads to the door behind them, and, slowly, it creaked open.

Dawn and Rosie recoiled as the Man stepped through. Whistling softly under his breath, he walked towards them — and then past them — and winked.

But Rosie caught him by his fancy waistcoat lapel and hauled him against the wall.

As she held him pinned, Dawn bridled in front of him with her pointed finger nearly up his nose. “Think you’re bloody funny, do you?! You’ve got some bloody explaining to do!”

Wide-eyed, the Man held up his hands and tried for an appeasing smile. “Whoa! It’s all part of the experience, Ma’am — I’m just an actor!”

“Yes,” the doorkeeper agreed, alarmed enough to drop the put-upon spooky tone. “We do our best to give our patrons an unforgettable time.”

“Unforgettable is bloody right,” Rosie snarled, shaking her prey.

Dawn eyed them both suspiciously, but then cracked a grin and reached for Rosie’s arm. “Well, good show. Let the poor boy down, Rose.”

Grumbling, Rosie obliged, and the Man straightened his waistcoat and cautiously cleared his throat.

“For what it’s worth,” he offered sheepishly, “you two handled yourselves the absolute best out of anyone I’ve ever seen.”

“Course we did,” Rosie scoffed. “We’ve been around the block a time or two — take more than a little twerp like you to do us in.”

“No arguments here,” the Man replied quickly. “I saw you come flying through the door with those print rollers — you’re one scary old lady.”

Rosie’s face darkened to thunderous, and her voice dropped to a caveat. “What… did you call me…?”

“Run, lad,” Dawn advised, raising her eyebrows in amusement. “Run, while you still can.”

The Man risked one more peek at Rosie’s stormy visage and bolted; in his wake, the doorkeeper turned back to them with a mollifying smile.

“Sorry about Nigel,” the doorkeeper said, “he’s not very tactful, sometimes. Great actor, though.”

Nigel?” Rosie spluttered, deflating. “Your serial-killer-psycho is named… Nigel?”

Dawn fell about laughing. “Honestly, you should give him a codename — something a little bit more scary.”

The doorkeeper cracked a grin, then, and the young woman behind all the makeup was suddenly obvious. “It is a bit ridiculous, I’ll give you that.”

She turned to the reception desk, fiddled with a laptop, and then presented them with an orange-and-black USB. “Here — this is the video footage of your experience, as a souvenir. I hope you enjoyed being scared out of your wits.”

“House of Horrors certainly lived up to its name,” Rosie allowed darkly.

“Yes,” Dawn grinned, accepting the drive, “it did. Thanks — we had a great time.”

“We didn’t Dawn.”

“Shut up, Rose, before they throw something else at us.”

Dawn winked at the doorkeeper and then chivvied Rosie along towards the exit.


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.