The Haunt is a setting and feature of a series of stories by Asher Black featuring a pseudonymic namesake character – Black Asher – and several friends. The Haunt is Asher’s home, and it also houses apartments used occasionally by his close friends when staying over to visit or work. The Haunt is what Asher calls a “construct”, a virtual space in the mind, the architecture of which corresponds to and summarized a particular way of thinking. Asher sometimes refers to the Haunt as “The Place of Nakedness”, thought it has nothing to do with nudity. The following are some background pieces on the Haunt:
The Haunt Entry
Asher’s Haunt is accessible from his Office, from the Arena, or through Asher – himself. Like all large houses, it is full of doors, and doors, once opened, have a way of changing things on both sides even if they are shut again immediately. Some doors are already open, some closed, and some even locked. Others only open to those who know how to speak to them. And then there are doors that seem to decide what to do quite by themselves, even disappearing altogether if offended or threatened in some way. But it’s not wise to offend a door, as word gets around, you know, and one doesn’t want a bad reputation among doors in general. Doors have notoriously long memories and are given to fickle and uncooperative temperament when previously prejudiced against a visitor.
It is often thought that the dogs at the Haunt are guarding the Haunt or Asher. In fact, the dogs serve mainly to keep away things that would be much better off not meeting Asher or venturing into the Haunt in the first place. Guests are advised to read the Bestiary of the Haunt, available in the Library, as a first step in getting to know some of the residents and their associates. The human residents will no doubt introduce themselves in the meeting hall should you stay the night.
The Haunt Library
The Haunt library houses, Asher thinks, roughly 8000 books. Asher isn’t sure of the exact number. When asked why, Asher has replied that books don’t like to be counted; they are more modest than we in matters of reproduction and extinction. There are also considerable sundries, a number of guest pipes, a leather sofa, a comfortable chair, and a long table (for getting out the ‘sources’, as an acquaintance likes to put it). Most of the paper files have been converted to digital media. All that remains of the originals are a few filing cabinets, a large blue tub, and “the pile” (which moves about the library seemingly on its own). The pile is a stubborn lot of pamphlets and oversized journals which have not lent themselves readily to scanning or copying. Rather than subjugating them by force, and despite eying them (and being eyed) rather uneasily now and then, Asher has been content to let these residents of the library lead an untroubled nomadic existence.
The library, though modest in size, contains some rare, if specialized, books, a fair number of suppressed books (which hide themselves wherever they can), a shelf of classics, a shelf of occult treatises, a shelf of conspiratorial analyses, a shelf of patristic and liturgical tomes, a shelf of cultural criticism, a shelf which is a mixture of theological hogwash and critiques of theological hogwaller, a shelf of German military history, a shelf of world historical analyses, a shelf of metaphysical subdisciplines including works of dialectics, politics, physics, and economics, a shelf of Encyclopediae Brittanica, Fortean catalogues, and other reference works, some shelves of fairy and folk tales, a multimedia shelf, a shelf of journals, rags, and ‘zines, and a shelf of diaries, jottings, albums, and other unpublished materials. There are also one or two ‘lost’ shelves containing books that seem to function as doors — though, when so accused, they are notoriously mute on the subject. Lastly, there is a workstation with access to the internet, Fidonet, an intranet, and one or two networks that have been defunct for some time.
Among the books in the Haunt library are An Herbiary of the Haunt, The Dossier of Black Asher (routinely out on loan), and the following:
Bestiary of the Haunt
There are two Alsatians that live at Asher’s Haunt full time. They tend to serve duty as the indoor guard, and enjoy the glow of the fireplace that warms the meeting room. They are occasionally seen about on the moors by day, but are always at home during the night. Both canines are male. Atlas is sable with a blue streak on his chest. Prometheus is sable, with a small spotch of red behind his ear and is slightly larger. The Alsatians are guardians to Asher’s guests and tend to prowl the corridors at night sniffing and checking the rooms, before taking up positions in front of the main and back doors until morning. Both animals are of the shorter-haired variety, from the same litter, and were selected not for show but because they seemed the most alert of their litter.
There are indeed bats in the vicinity, but one bat in particular, somewhat large for the local variety, has occasionally been seen in or around Asher’s Haunt. Asher refrains from noticing it, and curiously its arrival seems to coincide with or precede that of a mysterious visitor named V*****. The housekeeper says the bat’s name is Gertrude (German pronunciation) and is called Gertie for short. When V***** is in residence, according to the housekeeper, Gertrude hangs upside down in the curtains in the nefarium by day. By night she hunts moths and other insects around the lamps in the Haunt, and just occasionally will come and hang upside down from one’s arm, but very seldom. V***** does not comment on the matter and so no one has troubled him to ask.
This particular cat looks like a mix between a Maine coon cat and an Abyssinian. He answers to nothing and no one, but has deigned to frequent parts of the haunt, condescending to sleep in a particular chair most afternoons. He comes and goes at will and hunts for his own food, but has been made to understand that humans don’t want his gifts of the best parts of his kills, so he doesn’t bring them inside. He doesn’t comprehend this quirk in humans, but he accepts it. He is untroubled by the dogs, eyeing them coolly when he passes them in the halls. For their part, they seem to understand that it would be best to leave him alone. Although he will never, of course, come when called, he has at one time been given the name Seneca.
The two male Dobermans serve as an outdoor guard to the Haunt and bodyguards to Asher and so are occasionally seen stalking the surrounding moors at night.They will accompany him habitually on his walks, generally double file a little ways in front of him. They are amiable with the Alsatians but rather business like in their fierce role as personal protectors accustomed to the outdoors and the night. Their names are Vorbeck and Rommel. They are keen, quick, have no trace of fear – not of the devil himself – and are extremely loyal to Asher. Once Vorbeck was wounded on one of Asher’s late night walks – Asher will not say from what – and he cared for the animal in his own bed for a week. The housekeeper on her weekly visit overheard Asher saying, “Sorry brave friend. I would have taken the wound for you if I could.” The two animals are from the same litter, solid black, selected for this reason among others, quite tall, and their ears are long and somewhat forward pointing.
Rarely, a shadow has been half-noticed in the trees behind the Haunt, only for a moment, and visitors have occasionally reported feeling as though they were not quite alone when approaching the Haunt at night. The lack of uninvited guests is perhaps partly owing to this sense that something besides the Dobermans is afoot there. At certain times of the month Asher has been noticed putting a bowl of milk and a sack on the gnarly stump of a long withered tree back of the Haunt. Guests have only raised an eyebrow on occasion when Asher, sitting deep in his thoughts, has suddenly uttered “the gruggy” and then, aware of his audience, quickly addressed some familiar topic. The general feeling is that the reference might be related. The Dobermans, if they are aware of the phenomenon, take no notice of any such presence in the night, which is quite unusual indeed.
The merlin is a small falcon. This one is male, and hence slate blue with a dark terminal band on the tail. He is often seen hunting on the moors around the Haunt. Less often, he can be seen sitting on a particular window ledge in the Haunt. Even less often, he can be seen sitting on the back of a chair in the same room, if the window has been left open. Since this is rather far south of his natural habitat, there is no telling how he got here.
The Haunt also features a hearth room and a chapel. Individual apartment descriptions are currently private.