CHAPTER SEVEN — 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.

Terrified of heights and utterly unprepared for the abrupt vertigo, Dawn choked on a sob and shut her eyes.

Rosie swept her into her arms. “It’s all right — it’s all right — it’s not real,” she murmured. “The floor’s a screen — we’re okay, we’re still standing on solid ground. It’s an illusion.”

Dawn shook with dread. “It’s too much, Rose — I can’t…”

“Bloody bastards — this sort of bollocks should come with a warning,” Rosie growled, hugging her tight. “Keep your eyes shut, all right? I’ll lead you across.”

Trembling, Dawn managed a nod, and Rosie guided her halting steps the rest of the way. At last, they reached the next door, and the ‘tiles’ slowly swirled back upwards again, resettling into a complete floor behind them.

“You can look, now,” Rosie said. “The view is gone.”

Dawn risked a peek, and then her breath exploded and she reached for the wall to steady herself. “God… I think I might need to sit down…”

Rosie squeezed her shoulders. “I know your legs are jelly, but there’s still the issue of that… man.”

“Right,” Dawn said, inhaling deeply. “Right you are — let’s press on… I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve had just about enough of this House of bloody Horrors.”

Rosie frowned. “I hope you’re cured of your bloody thrill-seeking penchant, now. Next year we’re staying in — lights off, doorbell disconnected.”

“Sounds magical,” Dawn smirked. “Too bad I didn’t listen to you in the first place.”

Rosie huffed. “Yes, too bad that you never bloody listen to me.”

Bolstering themselves with bickering and bravado, they went through the next door to the room beyond and then paused to take stock. Inside, a large ring curb dominated the floor, and red-and-white drapery hung from the ceiling, emulating the inside of a big top circus tent. Empty, rough-fenced stalls lined the outskirts, and the smell of sawdust, caramelized sugar, and roasted peanuts floated in the still air.

“Oh-ho!” Dawn grinned. “Care to guess what this one’s all about…?”

Rosie narrowed her eyes as the stage curtain opposite shifted. “I don’t need to guess.”

Soft, chittering laughter preceded the clown’s entrance, and then its polka-dot body followed, crawling upside down with jerky, irregular movements that set its oversized shoes to clunking. At the edge of the ring, it paused, slowly righted itself, and then crouched with its head tilted at an alarming angle as it considered them. The rainbow frizz wig bobbed as the breathless chortling continued, and, without breaking eye contact, it began to scrape at the packed sawdust at its feet.

“Well?” Dawn said to Rosie. “Do we go around it?”

“Give it a sec,” Rosie replied, watching it suspiciously. “It’s up to something.”

The hole got bigger, the laughter got louder, and then — with an explosion of sawdust and grit — the clown hauled out a large axe. An unhinged holler of triumph, and then suddenly it ran at them, manically brandishing its glinting weapon.

Dawn recoiled despite herself, but Rosie stood stoic in the face of its charge, and it skidded to a halt mere inches in front of her, laughing and screeching and waving the axe in her face. Unflinching — and with an expression of extreme disapproval — she glared at it, and, by degrees, its gyrating grew less enthusiastic. Eventually, the axe drooped, and then the clown hesitated as if debating what to do.

Cold as ice, Rosie inquired, “Well?”

The clown chittered a little more — uncertainly, now — and then, with a shrug, turned on the heel of its oversized shoe, shouldered the axe, and retreated back the way it had come.

When it had disappeared beyond the curtain, Dawn snorted a laugh and slow-clapped for Rosie’s nerve. “Wow, Rose… That was inspiring!”

Rosie scoffed. “Luckily, I’ve never been scared of clowns. I find them annoying, at best. Besides, I’m quite confident that this place’s insurance does not cover actually axe-murdering a patron.”

Dawn’s grin widened. “Still — in the moment, that was very impressive. That thing was creepy as hell — even I ducked when it bolted at us, and I’m not particularly afraid of clowns, either.”

Rosie adjusted her wings and harrumphed. “How many more bloody rooms do we have to go through, do you think?”

“I’m sure we must be nearly at the end now,” Dawn replied.

“Good. I feel like we’ve been stuck in here for a bloody lifetime.”

They dusted their costumes down — because sawdust motes still hung in the air after the clown’s violent digging — and turned towards the next marker on the far wall.

Behind them, the door creaked open.

They swivelled at the sound — and stiffened as the Man stepped through. He halted as he caught sight of them, and then leaned effortlessly back against the doorframe with his hands still buried in his pockets.

“What do you want?” Rosie yelled, trying to make out his face beneath the low-slung cap.

“Come on, Rose,” Dawn said under her breath, unnerved by his lack of reaction.

Rosie vacillated for a second, but then pushed Dawn on ahead and matched her smart pace across the remainder of the room. They hurried through the far door, shut it firmly behind them, and then stumbled to a halt. Ahead, there were three doors — and the markers pointed to all of them.

“Well, shit,” Dawn muttered. “Now what?”

“No time to mull it over,” Rosie said, heading sharply for the one on the right. “At least that freak will have to guess which one we went through.”

Mute, Dawn followed her in, and they firmly closed the door behind them.

“Right,” Rosie said primly. “What have we got this time?”

“I’m not sure,” Dawn said, edging forward to investigate what looked like a small printing press. Newspapers of all kinds were strewn about, and she bent down to pick one up. “Well. That’s disconcerting…”

“What is it?” Rosie asked, coming to see.

Dawn held up the paper. “It’s… us.”

“What?” Rosie snatched it, staring at their picture. Her eyes widened as she read the headline. “Is this some kind of sick joke? Where on earth did they get this photo from…?” Slowly, she read aloud the first few lines of the article: “‘Two Wilmslow residents, Rosie Bishop (sixty-three), and Dawn Clermont (sixty-four), have been declared missing after a mishap at a Haunted House attraction on the evening of the Thirty-first of October. Police have released an image of a suspect wanted in connection with the case and are appealing to — ’” Rosie turned the page, broke off, and paled.

In vivid ink, the shadowed visage of the Man leered.

“What the hell…” Dawn croaked. Staring at the picture, she took the paper back from Rosie’s limp hands, scanned the rest of the article, and then said, “Look, Rose…”

Rosie’s gaze followed her finger as she pointed out the date, and then she bent to pick up another paper, and another, and another. All of them boasted the same front-page article, the same picture, and the same date.



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.