Toilets. Nothing but rows of stained porcelain as far as the light allowed. A young girl stood amid the gurgling bowls, eyes wide as she took it all in. A wet dripping sound echoed off the mildewed tile, most likely resulting from a leaky pipe hiding somewhere among the shadows.
Clutching a stuffed rabbit to her chest, the child took a small step into a pool of fluorescent light. With a relieved sigh, she took a second step, then a third, and began to walk toward a redly glowing ‘Exit’ sign. But it seemed the closer she came to her escape, the farther away the portal grew.
Then the drip stopped. Then the gurgling stopped. She was not alone.
A sickening stench pervaded the air, accompanied by a lonely, familiar melody. She gagged, unable to draw air, and pressed the rabbit harder against her body. Footsteps began in the distance behind her, measured at a slow gait.
She couldn’t breathe.
Her chest ached.
And as she ran, the unseen feet followed.
And as she fled the pursuer’s eyes glowed sickly moonlight.
And as the creature howled in a terrible voice, the girl fell to the floor screaming.
She wept in a huddle on the dank tile, her body shaking. The sound of mad, chittering laughter chilled her panicking heart. The distant footsteps hurried to her and in moments, the beast was upon her. It rolled her over and crawled onto her stomach, a wild grin on its face. Her stomach churned when she looked upon its hideous face, her blue eyes fixed open. A clawed and mangled hand rose into the air and the tempo of the airy music grew to a shrieking climax.
A light came on and she was in her own room, constricted by mangled sheets. A man stood over her, concern hovering in His sleepy eyes. She whimpered softly and extended her arms upward, embracing His neck as He picked her up and carried her off to another room.
The girl slept.
The chill of autumn crept in from an open window and shivered her awake. Rubbing sleepy eyes, she looked about the room as the fog of her dreaming evaporated and she crawled off the four-post bed. A tattered rabbit dangled from her hand as she dragged it over the new hall carpet, its torn sundress fraying further.
She entered the kitchenette, drawn by the scent of coffee and the hiss of writhing bacon. With her free hand, she tugged at her father’s blue robe: No response aside from the shuffling of newspaper. Pouting, she drew herself up into her designated chair and rested comfortably on the cat-print cushion.
She took a bite of dry toast; a sip of juice; suppressed a hiccough.
A tooth-chewed fingernail picked at the corner of a closed eye as she turned to look at her mother.
A tiny digit stopped moving as a full-open eye fell on an unusual sight.
Pink, shabby slippers; long, unshaved legs; a stained blue apron hanging open at the waist. They all belonged to her mother, she knew, but generally her mother had a torso. With a small shiver, she turned to look at her father and saw no hands holding the newspaper; no head peeking over the top of the pages. The clinking coffee cup only jostled from side to side, not even feigning to drink.
The child moved to get down from the chair and something warm and furry brushed against her bare feet. Her tiny knuckles went pallid as her fingers sank into Rin’s arm, a breath catching in her throat as a tongue lapped at the bottom of her left foot.
While she did not have a dog, she did possess fully functional vocal chords. She screamed as she ran, the walls and floor vibrating from the force of the sound.
Hard nails clicked against the linoleum flooring as they pursued the little girl. Padded feet thudded on the soft carpet, echoing the crying girl’s fleeing footsteps. Dripping teeth gnashed as they tried to catch a chunk of girl-flesh.
She rebounded off the door to her parents’ room — Locked. The girl frantically clawed at her own bedroom door — Locked. She was a quick study and ran past the remaining doors, bolting up the stairs. She threw herself into the first open entryway and slammed the door shut.
There was a thud; a yelp; the clacking of a lock striking home.
The wooden portal shuddered as the beast slammed into it repeatedly, shaking the framework. The knob rattled as something tried to wrench it open. The air filled with a familiar stench as the room darkened by degrees.
Glass exploded into the room as the creature flew in through the second story window, landing with a tittering laugh before the little girl. Its eyes rolled in their watery sockets and a slobbering tongue dangled from its hanging jowls. It snickered as it took a step towards her.
She backed up in a hurry, the smell of the creature beginning to overpower her. She felt faint; drained. Step for step, the creature matched her retreat until she was pressed flat against the wall.
The beast gurgled in triumph and reached a gnarled hand toward the child.
She thought the smell unholy; surely, only the foulest of daemons could possess such a stench. Her chest ached with the effort of forcing the rancid air into her fragile body, each small gasp becoming more labored than the last. Her world began fading to black as white lights danced before her straining blue eyes.
She sobbed a final breath and slumped forward to the floor. As she fell, the rabbit brushed against the monster’s claw and popped a few stitches. Her world washed away to the tune of a horrible scream.
The girl slept.
A squall had begun to fury outside. The wind howled in pain as it was shredded apart by the shards of glass in the fragmented window. She awoke with a start, coughing violently. Her body trembled and she doubled over in pain, holding her sides as she started to choke. With a belch, she vomited up a small black heap, spitting up a thick red secretion with it. She wiped her mouth on her sleeve in a panic, scrubbing her tongue well. Shaken, she stood upright.
Something was wrong.
She stepped over the revolting blob and walked to the door, or rather, to where the door should have been. Now there was just the impression of the frame that sank an inch or so into the wall itself. She rubbed the smooth surface, feeling a near-burning heat pulsing within. She backed away quickly as the wall began to throb, quivering almost like pale flesh.
A hot pain shot up her leg as something crunched underfoot. She cried out and hobbled to a clear spot where she slid to the floor and examined her aching sole. In the center, gleaming wetly, was a piece of the window glass. Wincing, she pulled the shard from the bleeding wound and tore off a clean piece of her bedclothes to act as a crude bandage as her Erasmus had once done when an accident with a knife cut His palm open.
As she wiped the blood off her hands, it dawned on her that she no longer had her beloved friend. A frenzied search of the room turned up nothing save a few tufts of cotton stuffing on the floor near where she had awoken. With a worried sigh, the girl made her way to the busted window, minding the debris on the floor.
The dreadful smell of the creature still lingered in the air, seeming to exude from the clumps of fur that were snagged on the fractured glass. Cold wind blew her hair about as it whispered around her small form, bringing with it droplets of misty rain. She pursed her lips as she watched the passing grey clouds.
It was too far to jump, she knew. The side of the house had no adjacent trees and there was no use trying to get a solid grip on the wet vinyl siding. Her shoulders slouched a bit as she sighed again.
She moved away from the window, limping in effort to keep her injured foot from any painful stress. The girl slid back against the wall and wilted to the floor, hugging her knees to her chest. At her feet were several shiny fragments, only a few of which were not yet bloodied.
The child looked from the shatters to the faint, throbbing of the doorway, and back to the mess. She bit softly into her lip, chewing it lightly as she debated the matter. It had felt like hide, the wall, and, judging by how easily the glass made its way into her foot, she knew what the blades were capable of.
Picking up one of the larger pieces, she made her way slowly to the wall, fearful that at any moment it might become animate. Holding the blunt end of the shard, she raised her arms up and over her head. With all of her strength, she thrust the shining knife deep into the membrane.
With a disquieting sound, the wall came apart and bled black, foul-smelling gore. Bile rose in her throat as she continued to draw the makeshift blade in a jagged profile of the door, hoping that her intuition was correct and that she would find her escape through this crude dissection.
Beyond this flap was the door, or, at least, a door. It shone like freshly exposed bone, the polluted blood making it gleam in the pale light that filtered in from the window. She reached for the glinting, filth-slicked doorknob. Taking a deep breath she closed her hand around the handle, gripped the glass as best she could, and flung the door open wide.
There was nothing.
Nothing but bloodstained carpet and blood-smeared walls, at least.
Deep gashes ran down the hallway, not so much whispering of violence as screaming of malice. She noticed splintered wood peeking out here and there from some of the deeper grooves as a timid step took her into the corridor. The slight pressure from her feet caused sticky blood to burble up from the oversaturated carpeting. She quavered, ill at ease, and brought her other foot out, removing herself from the room.
The viscous fluid stung at her wound, causing it to burn painfully. She leaned on her healthy foot and, with one hand on the damaged wall for support, began to hop down the hallway. Damp carpet squelched beneath her, filling the corridor with the sound of wet sucking.
Where the stairs should have been there was only a hole in the floor that descended down into such dark blackness that she dared not even fathom its depths. She knelt at the smooth edge of the oddly placed hole, peering into the abyss. The torn hem of her nightie soaked up some crimson fluid, staining it purple.
A skittering sound caused her to look back. Four spidery legs were flailing from the obscured doorway, clawing at the air. Two pierced the ceiling and the other two took hold of the floor. They tugged with an unsettling amount of force for their size, bending in several places as they struggled to free whatever it was they were attached to.
The plaster began to crack and dust flurried down, congealing in the muck. She knitted her eyebrows and turned back to the hole, standing upright. It was either plunge into the yawning darkness, she thought, or face whatever horror came out of the bedroom door. If it had enough power to tear free of the room, it could easily dispatch of her. She took a deep breath and jumped into the darkness just as the body liberated itself from the room.
The girl fell.
There seemed to be no passage of time as she plummeted. All she could tell was that it was growing very, very cold. At some point in her fall, it began to grow brighter. A blue light shone up from a point far below her. She felt a gradual sense of acceleration in the pit of her stomach and the frigid air whistled past her ears as the blue point expanded.
She was through the hole.
With mounting dread, she saw there was now snow covered ground coming up to greet her. Shifting around as hard as she could, she managed to turn her back to the rushing land and threw the glass edge off to the side, fearful of what it might do if she landed atop it.
She curled up in a tight ball.
“Erasmus, save me.”
She hit the ground hard.
Some while later she awoke with a groan, her body aching all over. Dazed, she opened her eyes and stared up at the hole in the sky. Gritting her teeth she forced herself to sit up, the sharp pains in her back shooting throughout her body. The cut in her foot had bled while she was blacked out, staining the surrounding snow. She undid and threw away the old bandage and tore another strip, making sure to secure this one tighter than the last.
Another groan and she was standing, shivering. Her thin nightdress was soaked through and a sharp breeze cut into her aching bones. She staggered forward a bit and would have injured her foot again had she not noticed the piece of window glinting on the cold ground. She picked up the frigid weapon, her fingers numbing.
She limped through the snowdrifts, cheeks flushed. Each gust of bitter wind stopped her breath and forced her to turn away from the chill. She had no idea where this place was, or, more importantly, why this waste was under her house. All she knew was that there seemed to be trees in the distance with smoke billowing out from somewhere among them. Where there was smoke, she hoped, there would be fire.
The trek felt like miles over the wasteland, but upon reaching the forest, she noted she could still see the bloodstained ground only a few meters back. Nothing seemed to be making sense anymore and she surrendered to being confused. With her blade at the ready, the girl entered the fire-lit clearing.
There sat Rin by a ring of heated stones, now and again tossing dry twigs into the flames. Hearing her gasp, the rabbit whirled around, glass eyes shining in the dancing light. A look of recognition flitted across her face and Rin’s stitching turned up into a grin. She smiled in return and limped over to the warmth, discarding the blade on the ground. Stooping, she picked up the rabbit and hugged her as hard as she could. Rin nuzzled her owner, arms squeezing with a gentleness that only a stuffed rabbit could provide.
The covert exuded safety and seemed to shield her from the wind and, she wished, from wicked things with yellowy eyes. After watching the fire for a short while, she lay down upon the hard ground, arms clutching Rin. Heavy lids blinked only twice before she drifted off again.
The girl slept.
Hours later, the child awoke. She felt around for her bed sheets to cover up her shivering form, as the fire was now only embers. Finding only cold ground, she moaned with sadness and sat up with a drawn out yawn. Stretching her arms above her head, she looked around the clearing, trying to find any changes that may have occurred during her nap.
There was nothing but earth and ash. Rin had left again while she was sleeping, taking with her the shard. In its stead, she had left a long stick, presumably to help her walk. The razor sharp stone embedded in the knobby end spoke of a more violent dual purpose, and the child was glad to have a more substantial weapon in this strange place.
Supporting herself on the polearm, she rose to her feet, resigned to her solitary situation. The going was faster with this new crutch and she was only hindered in her progress by the gnarled roots of the conifers. Now and then, she heard a rustling amid the boughs and for brief moments swore she could see beady little eyes looking out at her from the shadows. Aside from that, it was a rather uneventful transylvanian passage. That is, until the sky started to shake apart.
It had begun gradually enough and she had thought it to be a trick of light on the clouds. She had assumed the flakes breaking off to be snow until a small piece of rock struck her crown. Wincing, she had rubbed her head, looking skyward only to find dark cracks running along the high ceiling, growing more menacing with each tremor.
She traced them with her eyes back to the expanding hole, the epicenter of it all. But now there was a colossal spider clambering its way out. She growled and began to hurry along. A splintering sound filled the air as the sky fragmented and, with an enormous crash, the spider fell from the ceiling sending up a cloud of stony dust and snow. The ground quaked as the sky buckled and warped, dropping chunks of powdery blue stone onto the tundra below. Trees toppled around her as she attempted to escape, doing her best to keep from being crushed.
The spider came with uncanny swiftness. Each of its elongated steps brought it along with hushed fleetness and soon it threatened to overtake her. In moments, the stalker moved overtop her, its hairy black legs destroying any chance of further flight. It seemed to gurgle a laugh while a fangorious mouth opened in its center as it lowered itself down toward the girl.
She clutched her walking stick with both hands and waited as rubescent poison dripped down from the gnashing jags. It stung her skin where it touched and stained the ground where it fell. The sticky venom matted her tousled brown hair; a miasma rose from the steaming toxin and stung her narrowed eyes.
“This isn’t how it ends.”
A boulder struck the ground nearby, causing the child to cry out in surprise. With a grunt, she thrust the deadly end of Rin’s present into the mouth of the descending spider. There was no sound from the creature aside from the cracking of its chitenous back where the stone blade pierced it. The spider did not howl, did not attack. It merely slumped down on top of her, its legs going slack.
She dislodged the weapon from the corpse and started hacking away at the gangles that held her captive. The sound was reminiscent of crab legs being split apart when they gave way, though these limbs surely contained nothing savory. She removed herself from the prison, the toxic vapors starting to manifest in her mind as a pink haze clouding her vision.
She managed to press on as the sky fell around her, bumbling out of the way whenever a large shadow covered the ground around her. She was out of breath and wheezing by the time she found a sheltered cave to hide within. Her skin was splotched purple and numb where the venom had fallen on her. The sores stank of rotting meat and she feared that it was more than likely her own.
An explosive crash.
Near total darkness.
A piece of heaven now blocked the exit and the only light present was an eerie green glow given off by strange lichen that seemed to coat the whole inside of the cave. Tired and stumbling footsteps led her deeper into the silent darkness, guided only by the soft unearthly light.
It was not long before she was unable to continue any further. Everything was aching worse than when she had fallen into the snowfields, and the once numb sores had now begun to burn and tingle painfully. She staggered forward a few more shuffling yards before collapsing into a slick rock wall and falling unconscious to the floor. Her eyes fluttered as a fell wind swept past her face, bringing with it the sound of weeping.
The girl slept.
A song was playing through hidden speakers in the elevator car. It was a kind melody, reminiscent of an old music box. The tune progressed and the key began to warp, going from sorrowful and innocent to perturbed and corrupt. Floors flew past the panels of glass, revealing glimpses into countless daydreams and nightmares.
The last note chimed.
The doors parted.
The girl stepped out.
The room was barren aside from a pedestal that stood in the exact center of the room. Harsh light glared down from a fixture in the ceiling, shining on the stand and the item thereupon. Atop it, worn and filthy, was Rin. Her soft pink fur was now discolored and caked with mud. Her arm had been torn open and black, stained fluff was hanging out.
From the wound spidery veins of bleak corruption had spread out, infecting most of the doll’s left side. The areas it reached looked less like the fabric of a toy and more like that of necrotic flesh. Patches were devoid of hair and crisscrossed by black lines that convulsed and contorted as though some horrific parasites were burrowing underneath.
Miniature shackles held in place Rin’s untainted side. They clattered together as she shivered with fright, her head lolling about above her fluffy shoulders. But, despite her appearance, she seemed to brighten when she saw her girl step out of the elevator, lifting her constrained arm in an attempt at a wave.
The child forced a smile and moved to her doll’s side, placing a hand upon her balding head. Rin nuzzled the hand in return, pressing her face into the palm. She placed a furry kiss upon a sore, causing it to fade away. At the same time, another bit of corruption appeared on the loving toy’s body. The girl pulled her hand away, staring at the now perfectly healed palm.
The girl gasped with grim understanding and shook her head.
The rabbit smiled bravely and nodded, taking hold of her other hand.
When the girl moved to pull away Rin lashed out with her bound arm in an explosion of energy and held on to her. Try as she might, she could not pull away and broke into a fit of sobbing as her companion nursed the spider’s toxins from her shaking body.
Rin was gasping in pain as she neared the end of her sacrifice, black eyes shining brilliantly in the bright light. She managed to look happy and pressed her forehead against her girl’s cheek before a final kiss stole away the last of the venom. Rin had cleansed the child in exchange for her own purity.
All of the rabbit’s hair was gone and her skin had become a mass of spreading darkness. Blood trickled from her eyes and mouth, but peace stayed on her lips. Her sad eyes were fixed and seemed to pierce into her owner’s mind.
The bunny nodded to the bladed staff.
The girl shook her head again, her eyes raining saltwater.
Rin nodded again before being racked with spasms, her skin starting to split and crack as the familiar black bile poured forth. Choking back a sob she started to quake, positioning the stone blade before the doll’s heart. The rabbit tilted its head to the side and closed its runny eyes, her teeth bared in a semblance of a grin that split her ruined face.
The girl clenched her eyes shut and thrust forward.
Rin made no sound.
The girl awoke.
She found herself on the shore of a frozen ocean. Flickering flames hung suspended in the air as they trailed out across the black ice. The smell of the place was hard to pin down. It had traces of the musty earth in the cave, but there was also a certain acridity to it, most likely from the mysterious lights. She struggled to her feet, a hand over her mouth to stop the greasy smoke entering her lungs. Fumes and tears alike blurred her vision as she thought back to Rin. Heart hanging low in her chest, she trudged along through the squeaking sand.
The beach ran out when it met a high and impassable cliff and she sat down heavily on the ground, holding her head in her hands. This place was driving her onward, and she did not know why. It was pulling her in directions she did not want to go, and for the life of her, she just could not figure out how to make it all stop. All she wanted to do was to wake up and leave all of it behind.
Then, from offshore, a tepid wind blew in, bringing with it flakes of fast melting frost. Far out beyond the last visible light a voice beckoned to her with a sweet melody. It was He; she knew it. He had come to deliver her from these horrors.
Her mind went hazy as she drifted along, feet barely making contact with the rigid surface. Her breath came out in white, steamy puffs and hung for a few moments in the air before the little clouds crashed to the ice. The slick surface creaked and groaned while waves moved beneath her light footfalls.
Dark shapes lurked below the ice, swarming about the child’s ghostlike footsteps and scratching against their barrier. The voice kept calling, pulling her further away from the shore. Each flame went out at her passing, bringing a swift darkness to bite at her heels. The melody continued to haunt the air, reminiscent of the elevator’s music box, though it seemed sweeter than the earlier song. Nevertheless, she could not shake the discord that seemed to lay interwoven among the echoes. Then, all at once, the world fell apart.
The voice stopped. The wind howled. The ice broke. The girl sank.
The break was so sudden she had not a chance to store a breath before the water engulfed her. Slimy creatures entangled her legs and pulled her away from the rapidly sealing surface. She struggled, bubbles writhing and billowing from her mouth. The brine stung at her eyes, blinding her to the nature of the fiends at her feet.
Her mind screamed. Her lungs burned. Her feet touched bottom.
As the ocean churned, a multitude of lights shone in the darkness, causing her to squint. They spun about, revealing that she was in fact inside a sealed room of stone. She knocked several of the lights to the floor as she doubled over; choking up some of the water she had inhaled. The little points of light sputtered and smoked as the water made contact, causing hissing steam to rise from their inert bodies.
She dug her fingers into a groove in the nearest wall to steady herself and her back popped in several places as she nearly bent over backwards in a prolonged stretch. She gritted her teeth as she thought once more of Erasmus and fought back the looming melancholy. Had He abandoned her; He whom she worshipped as her ever-living messiah? She rubbed away fresh tears as she looked around the claustrophobic space, hoping for an escape.
By now, the stars had turned into a myriad of buzzing insects that clicked and flitted their way across the inexplicably well-lit walls. The sound of their bodies smacking against the stone made her skin crawl and she clawed at the air in an attempt to knock them down. But the contact with their many flapping wings caused her to recoil in greater disgust and she clutched her arms more tightly against her body.
Calling upon what courage she had, she shuddered wholly before charging through the swarm with her eyes clenched shut. A patch of ice cut short her flight and sent her reeling to the floor. Her head bounced off the hard surface with a crack.
The girl slept.
The overpowering smell of raw sewage, unrefined in all its terrible glory, gagged the child awake. One hand reflexively guarded her nose from the smell that seemed to permeate every atom of the air. The other caressed the swollen knot on the back of her throbbing head. She began to choke on the smell and pulled her nightclothes over her mouth and nose, but it only afforded a marginally better filter than her fingers. The room itself was alien and foreign shadows darkened the walls.
Somewhere in the background the corrupted elevator melody was playing, harmonized by a discordant voice. It sang along to the broken tune, keeping careful time with the disjointed meter.
She kept her breaths short in effort to stave off being ill. Pushing back the grimy covers, soiled with blood and the reek of urine, she placed a tentative foot on the cold floor. Finding only rough carpet, she brought her healed foot down beside it and perched her bottom on the edge of the bed.
A greasy feel to this air made it seem as though it was creeping over her skin. The awful sensation made her scalp itch and she wanted nothing more than to escape and find a shower. Standing upright, she surveyed the room with dusk-adjusted eyes, hunting for an exit.
In a far corner, she saw the outline of a rectangle cut into the shadows by a brilliant white. She seemed to glide across the floor to the light that seemed to glide across the floor to her.
She bounced off the mirror and fell back onto the floor with a hushed thud. She grumbled and threw a nearby sock at the silvered glass before she stood and walked in the opposite direction. She turned the brass knob and pulled it open, revealing another door. Eyes narrowed, she opened…
The tenth door had her seriously annoyed, causing her to pull more violently when she opened the next, slamming it noisily into the last. It seemed there was no end to them. With a groan, she slumped to her knees, her nightdress moving away from her mouth unnoticed as she caught her breath. For now, at least, the stench had gone away.
She lowered her head with a sigh, dirty hair dropping down over her tired eyes. In the corner of her vision, she saw hope shining in the edge of a blade. A crooked grin broke out across her lips as she took the sharp metal in hand. With all of the strength she could summon up, she shoved the blade into the never-ending doors.
Her hand and the weapon held within it went clear through and inertia helped her to follow suit. On the moment of impact, the doors seemed to have turned to tissue paper. With a shrug, she tore her way through, exiting into the upstairs hallway of her house. Out here, where it smelled of vacuumed carpet freshener and was lit with fluorescent lights, the music was louder.
She walked toward the sound that seemed to emanate from the first floor. The warbling notes sang her down the cold wooden stairs, drawing her further down the hallway. She came to a stop in front of her shut bedroom door. The song came from in there, she somehow reasoned, but it did not sound like a human singer. Whatever sang it was surely nothing she wanted to meet, but she was not sure of any other options except those that pulled her forward through this insanity. Knife at the ready she flung the door open to the cessation of all sound except that of her blade crashing to the floor.
Her parents lay on her bed in a tangle of bloody sheets. Their chests were bare and torn open, broken ribs gleaming in the lamplight. Arms and legs were twisted in unnatural positions and were surely broken. Her hands went to her mouth to stifle a scream and she spun around only to find that the door was gone and a plain wall was in its place. Flies buzzed and chirred around the corpses, their black bodies crawling about their nostrils and mouths. But despite it all there was an expression of the deepest serenity resting on their faces.
Over the din of the flies, there was a disturbing smacking sound, as if someone were enjoying a savory meal. She scooped up the fumbled knife and stepped fully into the room. She was terrified but the surreal expressions of her parents numbed her urge to panic. As she neared the bed the slurping stopped and there was nothing but the sound of whirring flies and oozing maggots.
Then, from just beyond the edge of hearing, there came the sound of heavy breathing. The mass of flies on the decimated bodies heaved and swayed like some kind of horrible black ocean that filled all horizons of her vision. The breathing was the sound of waves against the boat as it gently rocked back and forth among the white caps. The buzzing became the humming of the penitent figure on the bow whose head was turned upward towards the sky.
She scowled and clenched her fist around the handle as she approached the man. His body swayed as the boat rocked, but His head seemed to be fixed in place. A violent lurch shook the vessel and caused her to stumble and fall onto her side. The blade was knocked free from her stunned hand; washed overboard by a surge of the dark water.
The ship remained leaning to the side, port or starboard she never knew, but the man at the bow hung perfectly straight. It was then that she noticed the fine wire descending from the ruddy sky. It spun around His neck in tight loops, holding Him solidly in its deadly embrace. All the while, He continued to hum the nostalgic music.
The wind began to pick up and blew in from the distant shore, carrying with it the smell of rotting meat. The dangling man continued His song, but the hum now turned into a scream. At the peak of His voice, He shrieked out the corrupted music, His arms flailing and clawing at the sky. His legs jerked and kicked in a violent display, reminding her of a frog she had once seen as some species of long-legged bird plucked it from a pond.
The melody had halted, but the wail continued. The wind roared along with the man, ripping and tearing the water around the boat. When the wind spun the man around to face the girl, her heart froze in her chest. It was her Erasmus. How He had come to end like this she did not care; her only concern was getting Him free. It was then that the rain began to pour. This was not a shower or a storm. This was the sky opening up and heaving out water in such a volume that all but the two figures standing on the boat became obscured.
She ran to Erasmus and grabbed Him about His legs as she tried to cut loose the cords around His neck. She was too short and fell back, only managing to snare the lowest loop. But it did grant Him a looser fit and He sank low enough to plant his feet on the rocking boat. He stood there before her with outstretched arms and began to sing. It began softly at first, but it grew louder with each note until she could recognize the melody.
It was her song.
The force of the words, of the melody, drove back the waterfalls that threatened to overtake the two. It rushed away the clouds and the gloom and for the briefest of moments Erasmus was in His heaven and all was right with the world. She stood and rushed to Him with arms outstretched. And He coughed up blood, falling to his knees.
Tears streamed from His heavily lidded eyes as He began to howl, blood dribbling down His chin from the strain. She screamed and reached a hand out to her sorrowful lover who in kind desperately extended His own.
When their fingers touched the cord around His neck went slack for a moment before snapping back to its former state, and Erasmus was fished away beyond the clouds. The ship capsized, dumping her out into the bedroom again.
She was outraged at how the monster dared to toy with Him. That beast had been playing a twisted version of Erasmus’s opera all throughout this unending nightmare. Her lips curled up in a snarl as she got to her feet. The creature would dearly pay for this blasphemy of such beautiful music and for torturing her with memories of her love’s suicide.
She pulled the knife from its resting place in the wall. How it got there, she did not care. All she wanted was to destroy the monster and find an end to this frustrating labyrinth. The flies in the room had grown more numerous and were now completely covering the prone bodies of her parents save their eyes, frozen in blank stares. She shooed them away from the bodies with a stray blanket, causing the flies to hum up into a flickering cloud.
The child reclined her head, losing herself. With every raging particle of her wrath, she struggled to change the room. If it could tear open her fragile wounds then she could seal shut its exits. Her temples throbbed and her eyes ached. There was no door in the room, and the window was barred over with rusted steel bars. There was no escape this time. There were no hidden passages or subtle hints as to how to break free. The monster was trapped with the girl.
As if on cue, the flies condensed behind her, their buzzing almost fading away entirely. A shape began to form from them, familiar in its hideousness. Ghastly claws protruded from deformed fingers extended from gangly arms connected to a stout body supported by flat feet. Two glowing yellow eyes burned from within the blackness of the monsters hairy face, all other features distorted.
It gurgled merrily, its terrible mouth breaking out into a wicked grin. She heard the sound and spun about on her heels to face the creature that had been tormenting her throughout the whole misadventure. The girl smirked in return, gesturing profanely to the monster in a decidedly unladylike fashion. The monster’s eyes narrowed at this display and it reached a hand deep into its mouth, pulling out a dripping form.
Her mood darkened as she recognized Rin and she bared her teeth at the monster. The creature snickered at her anger and squeezed the doll until its head popped off those petite, furry shoulders, leaving nothing in its claws but the limp rag clad in a disintegrating summer dress.
But it did nothing more than infuriate the young girl. Not only had this beast corrupted her beloved doll, but it had also perverted the composition and the memory of one of her dearest friends. The nightmarescape had long ago stopped being frightful and was now nothing more than a wretched annoyance. Her knuckles were white with strain as she held that knife. Her scowl contorted into a grin that shamed the monster’s own as she took a step toward the fiend.
The monster stumbled backward, startled by this display of defiance, and dropped the doll to the ground whereupon the plush figure melted away into smoke. She advanced, the subdued light giving a bit of a ghoulish gleam to the deep blue pools of her eyes. With a growl, she lunged forward, slashing at the monster in a wide arc. She caught it in the side of the head, eliciting a pained howl from the beast.
It pulled itself free from the knife blade and skittered over to a far corner, a grimy paw clenched over its bleeding wound. Snarling, it flashed its grisly yellow fangs, a long red tongue flickering in and out of its mouth. But before it could compose itself, she fell upon the monster, stabbing and slashing at anything that gave the perception of being a soft piece of flesh.
Blood and fur flew in the air as the fiend struggled vainly to escape the little girl. It howled in agony as she pierced its shining left eye, leaving a bloody socket to pour out its pus-laden contents. She clawed and bit at the horrible thing, tearing out chunks of its disgusting fur with her small teeth. The shining blade came down again and again until all that came from the monster were whimpers and choked gurgling.
Regaining her composure, she stood up and gloated over the prone creature for a moment before running off to the opposite corner and throwing up what little of its blood had worked its way down her throat. She wiped her mouth on her sleeve, leaving a bloody swath on her arm. Breathing heavily she walked to her bed and sat on the edge. There were no longer any bodies, just stains where they had once been positioned. A shuffling sound made her turn to find the monster clawing its way across the floor toward her.
She rolled her eyes in annoyance and got to her feet, storming over to the creature and delivering a swift, hard kick to its side. The force of the blow flung the monster into the far wall and the creature collapsed in a bloody heap. The little girl, covered in gore, marched to the monster and with all of her hatred stabbed downward with the knife, embedding it deep within the monster’s heart.
The wicked creature lashed out and flailed its arms, but it could not get a piece of the little girl. She stood off to the side, watching it bleed out its life. The monster turned its remaining eye to the berserk child, confusion flashing through the solitary orb. In a final breath, it swore a curse at her before succumbing to the void.
She immediately stumbled and fell, crashing to the shag. Overtaken by a sudden exhaustion her eyes closed blissfully for the first time in what seemed an eternity.
The girl awoke.
‘Nng…’ was all Lycoris could manage as she blinked herself awake. There was the familiar ceiling, cracked and decayed as it had always been. An unmanicured hand rubbed a drowsy face as the lady yawned, blinking a few more times. Reaching to the end table she grabbed a cigarette and brought it to her lips while fumbling for the lighter hidden among the debris on the floor.
A flicker of flame.
A sharp intake of breath.
An exhalation of smoke.
She sighed happily as the insecticide went into effect, jumpstarting her brain if just for a few short, precious moments. Cigarette perched between two pale lips she sat up, stretching her arms high above her head. The lady winced a bit as her elbows popped, and she let loose another cloud of smoke. Squinting through the haze, Lycoris grabbed up a notebook from the mess on the floor and produced a mechanical pencil from her jean pocket. Pink rabbit tucked securely under her free arm, the woman began to write.
The journal was tattered, worn, and reflected well the state of the room. Cobwebs filled each corner and dust lay in thick sheets on all flat surfaces. She and the rabbit were all that were spared such treatment. The graphite flew across the pages as she wrote frenziedly. This was not the first time she dreamt these nightmares, but this was the first day she was able to subdue the monster and touch her Erasmus. Her depression seemed at an end and she was determined to preserve His memory, lest she be unable to grasp it again.
And so her own opus began as a requiem for her lover, her god, whom the world crushed under its uncaring heel. She wanted it to be a work of such beauty that all others would have to come to love this man, and to understand just why He did what He did. She swore never again to forget His lull-a-bye or His brilliance. And she knew that once she finished it, she could allow herself to see the dawn again.