Press the back button on your browser to return to the document of origin.
(The Quicktime movie must completely load before the morphing begins.)
|Victoria Harken was an exceptional child. The envy of all her friends, she was blessed with a flawless complexion, flaxen hair, and a musical voice. She possessed a sharp, unparalleled wit which somehow seemed to darken as she reached adolescence. Her parents, Timothy and Angelica, lavished upon their young beauty everything a maiden could desire. Her father ordered an enormous vanity mirror with a gilded frame to compliment the hand-made furnishings of her bedroom, so that she could fully appreciate her own beauty. Few children could boast of such an ideal setting in which to live. Victoria spent countless hours admiring herself in the glass, convinced that she was the fairest young woman in all the land.|
Victoria promenaded through the halls of Harkenwood Manor like an arrogant goddess, and it seemed that no one could stand in her way. Angelica failed utterly in her many attempts to reason with her daughter. When her father dared to confront Victoria about her inflated self-esteem, she chided him for his 'pathetic speech', reminding him that it was he who taught her how thoroughly magnificent she was. He ought to be ashamed, she asserted, for what else but mere material possessions had he to show for his life other than her, his beloved daughter. Timothy bowed his head and acquiesced, unwilling to admit his error, for pride in his exceptional progeny was his greatest weakness.
Countless suitors vied to win Victoria's favor. All were immediately dismissed by the remorseless beauty, save for one. Her hopeful parents were charmed by this handsome young man, the favored son of a prominent family. Arthur Burgess, who showered the obstinate object of his love with flowers and gifts, only prompted in the wretched girl a desire to toy with his affections by offering him a false hope of requited love. Finally, after torturing him for months, she flatly rejected his advances in a horrid and merciless tirade, as Angelica watched helplessly from her hiding place in an adjacent room.
One fateful night, as a tumult of lightning and thunder played above Harkenwood Manor, Victoria stood before her magnificent gilded mirror, admiring her pallid reflection, imagining that she controlled the fury of nature. Aloud to an invisible audience she intoned, "I am as immortal as the fury of weather, wearing down the weak, mutable creatures upon whom I cast my gaze. Forever shall my approval be besought, but none can ever hope to deserve..."
A blinding flash and a deafening explosion suddenly interrupted her pompous speech. The manor house was shaken to its foundations as the mirror before her shattered. Victoria's last breath was forced from her by an overwhelming shock, and she collapsed lifeless to the floor.
After what seemed an eternity, a quiet voice spoke to her: "The one you should never have shunned may someday return in a quest to find you, beseeching your favor one last time in the despair of his loneliness. To him, the one to whom you never offered kindness, must you whisper a heartfelt message of reassurance and love, and offer an apology for your cruelty. Pray that he shall come to you before his own death, for only by this act of redemption shall you find release. This bedroom shall be your prison until that day."
Timothy and Angelica wept bitterly at the discovery of their wicked daughter's demise, and their tears were as much for their own failure as for the loss of their beloved child. The graveside service was beset by driving rain, but after the last rites were completed, they confided to each other in amazement how they had both seen a strange, glowing presence descend on her grave.
Many years have passed since that day. Timothy and Angelica finally decided to ignore the quiet sounds of sobbing that came occasionally from Victoria's deserted room, reasoning correctly that penance was having its way with her. Finally tired by these little reminders of the past, the couple abandoned the old estate for a new home, though no buyer could be found for their haunted mansion. Angelica bore another lovely daughter, who possessed the opposite of her predecessor's character, and the burden of their firstborn's wickedness faded slowly from her parents' memories.
Victoria's solemn and repentant ghost looks out upon the world from her bedroom window in abandoned Harkenwood Manor, now shunned by all as a haunted house. Suddenly, she feels an unexpected thrill of hope - for below, an elderly man creeps slowly up the cracked path toward her front door, a forlorn but wistful look on his face...