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The lighter shook in Santi’s hand as he fiddled inside the fuse box. His shadow flickered on the unused furnace, being so alive that it made Gijs feel dead by comparison.

“Are you done yet?” he asked for the third time.

“Be patient,” threw Santi over his shoulder and went back to work. “It might take a few minutes. I cannot find my way around here.”

Gijs sighed and turned back to watch the dancing shadow. It grew, shrunk, leaped around, turned into a pear, a tomato, shrunk, grew.. Grew. And grew.

“Santi..” Gijs whispered.


“It’s coming closer.”

“What is?” Santi turned around to look at him, lighter still close to the fuse box.

“Your shadow. The furnace. The wall. It’s coming closer.” Gijs suddenly came to the painful realization that he had a heart.

“I can’t see anything..” Santi put a hand around his shoulders. “All of them are over there, Gijs. You are imagining things.”

But the wall was closing in. Gijs’ throat convulsed in panic and he wheezed. He could feel beads of sweat trickle down from his underarms. He looked around, and all the blurry walls were coming closer, everywhere. Swaying. Two steps forward, one step back. They were going to crush.. to crush..

“They’ll crush us, Santi! They’re closing! The walls! The walls are..”

Santi hugged him very tightly. His warmth was reassuring, but it didn’t stop the walls from coming!

“Santi, please.. Let’s get out of here, let’s go, if we still can, they’re crushing us, my nose, my head, my chest, my bones, I can’t let this, let’s go, please!!”

Santi was saying something, but he couldn’t hear it. He almost couldn’t even see him anymore. There was white chasing black all over his vision, and he felt he was going to throw up or faint, and he’d rather faint so he wouldn’t feel the walls.. He had to hold on to Santi, he could save him, he could get him out of there.. Santi’s face was close now. He could see his lips moving, trying to say something to him, but he was falling.. And then he felt himself pushed or dragged out of the room, to the right, then to the left, scrambling up the staircase.. and out into the hall.

It was large. It was lit. He fell to his knees, slumped forward and drew long breaths until he came to. Then he realized Santi was behind him, holding his head. He forced himself to straighten.

Santi hugged him close from behind and whispered, “How are you?” He smelled faintly of sweat, and it was a very comforting smell.

“Like.. hell.. Could’ve died there.”

“And now?”

“I’m.. all right, I think. Thank you.” Gijs impulsively spun around and buried his face into Santi’s hair. He felt him shiver.

They stayed like that for a few hours, or maybe just seconds.

“Do you think you can go back to the others? I need to fix those lights as soon as possible,” Santi whispered.

“I think I can.”

“Be careful, Gijs.”

Gijs disentangled himself with a pang of regret. The last part of them that touched were their hands. He held on for a few heartbeats and then turned towards the dining room. After a few paces, Gijs closed his eyes and allowed the memory of the sweaty scent to make him smile a little. A final look over his shoulder showed Santi going back down into hell. Gijs shuddered and entered the dining room.

He heard the sound the hard object made connecting with the back of his head a split-second before he felt the pain, and he collapsed, never noticing the difference between the two kinds of darkness.


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 10:00 pm on Oct. 15, 2006 | Link to this post

Marion wasn’t coming back. Why wasn’t she coming back? Had the killer gotten her? Had she fainted from fear or exhaustion? Had she lost her way? Had she seen the white ghost? Bearic’s head was swimming in so much worry his brain was having problems breathing.

“Why isn’t she back?” he asked no one in particular.

“Maybe she’s got an upset stomach,” said gabnic.

“No. She’s been in there for half an hour at least,” protested Bearic.

“Ten minutes,” said Almirena.

Bearic shook his head and hit the pool table in anger with a cue stick. “None of you cares about her! What if something happened to her.. out there?” Out there.. in the darkness. Where ghosts called and witches walked. Or the other way around.

“If you’re so worried, why don’t you go after her? Then maybe grab some matches from the kitchen,” said r.

“He can’t go alone!!” said Tsolaelia. “Santi said..”

“Santi said a lot of things. Why isn’t he coming back, eh? Why isn’t he repairing the lights? How hard is that stuff for a.. scientist?” spat r, voice breaking every other few words.

“What’s your point?” asked Krss.

“My point is.. is.. Oh hell, I don’t know.” r slumped back onto one of the couches. “I’m just not moving from here to get that hissy.”

Bearic felt the need to punch him in the face. “That’s it. I’m going after her. If I’m not back in.. Forget it.”

“Bearic, don’t..” started Tsolaelia.

“Leave me alone.”

Bearic left the room without looking back. As soon as the courage given by anger had gone away and he was out the door, he realized why he hadn’t wanted to go in the first place. It was dark. And with the new rules around the house, the ghost maybe didn’t stay on the stairs anymore.

Think about Marion.

White ghost staring at him with his large eyes.


White ghost touching him.


He realized he’d been standing in the same spot for some time, because he’d gone over the name Marion five times already. He had to move. If he moved, nothing could catch him. So he moved.

The door to the bathroom creaked open and Marion came out, looking very tired. Bearic forgot the white ghost and ran over to catch her in his arms.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, softly.

“Stomach. Threw up everything,” she managed. “I usually do after meals, but this one came by itself. Too much agitation. Too dark.”

Bearic held her steadily, stroking her hair. “It’s okay. We’ll get out of here.. It’ll be okay.” He felt her cling to him and a rush of power flooded in, and left just as quickly. Right. The darkness. “We need to get some matches from the kitchen. Do you think you could come with me? I’d like..” Not to be caught alone. “.. some company.”

Marion nodded. “Thank you..” she whispered.

“For nothing,” Bearic said. He took her hand and they walked slowly into the dining room. She kept stumbling, and he was trying to help her up for the third time when he heard a noise.

A rhythmic banging noise.

“Did you hear that?” he asked Marion.

“Yes.. It’s coming from the kitchen. What could this be? Let’s go and find out.”

“No, let’s not.. That’d be stupid,” he said, and he meant it.

“The matches are in the kitchen. We have to get them. Let’s go. We’re together, what can happen?” She looked almost excited. She pulled his hand towards the kitchen and the noise. Bearic would’ve followed that hand anywhere. So he did.

As they entered the kitchen, the source of the noise became obvious. It came from the freezer.

“There’s someone inside..” said Marion, from somewhere near him.

Bearic’s left arm went numb from shoulder to wrist. Nothing could live in there. Nothing.

Except the ghost.

His ears started humming so loudly it hurt his brain. Shock glued him to the spot, and his eyes followed Marion as she opened the door. Slowly. One inch at a time. He opened his mouth to warn her.. to tell her to move aside.. to tell her the ghost hated people.. but no sound came out.. And she went on with it. And when it was open, she gasped and fell back. And Bearic still couldn’t see what she was seeing..

Until the white ghost with long hair and large eyes limped out of the freezer and grabbed him with his two long, pasty-white paws.

The image of the screaming bluish face followed Bearic in the afterlife.


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 3:53 am on Oct. 16, 2006 | Link to this post

“Gijs!! What happened to you?” Thoughts chasing each other without leaving trails over the surface of her mind, Krss rushed to help Santi lay Gijs down on a couch. With the lights fixed, it was much clearer to see his large staring eyes, his tangled hair, the tears on his cheeks. Maybe having lights on wasn’t such a great deal. He curled into a ball, whimpering something she couldn’t understand. She sat next to him and started stroking his hair gently, then looked up at Santi, demanding explanations.

“He got.. locked in the freezer. That much I know,” said Santi.

“Oh my God. But he’s so claustrophobic he could’ve..”

“Died. Yes. I think if he’d stayed in there even one minute longer, he would have. But Marion opened the door, and Gijs ran out of the freezer, grabbing Bearic in a frenzy. Which killed Bearic, by the way.. He thought he was seeing the ‘white ghost with large eyes’.”

“Bearic, dead??” gasped Krss.

“Yes. And, as you can see, Marion isn’t in such a good shape either. She had quite a shock.”

Ignoring Marion’s sobbing, Krss turned back to Gijs. “How did he get in the freezer anyway? Wasn’t he supposed to be with you?” She said the last sentence with spite.

“He.. he had an attack in the basement. I took him to the great hall, and then I..” Santi whispered, “I left him alone.”

Krss seethed. “How could you have left him alone in a dark house?? In this dark house?”

“Don’t you think I am already blaming myself enough?” said Santi, his eyes full of pain.

Krss didn’t care. “No.”

Santi looked away, but took Gijs’ hand in his. Krss wanted to slap him off, but for some reason that seemed too cruel a punishment.

“Okay.. First Almirena shut Santi there in the freezer with the snake, then Gijs grabbed Bearic and killed him..” drawled r.

“What’s your point?” spat Krss. She was in no mood for r. Her hand continued to brush Gijs’ hair. He had managed to calm down enough to close his eyes and stop whimpering. His breath was more even now. And what Krss didn’t know was if it had been her touch or Santi’s to accomplish that.

“My point? So far we’re doing a great job out of killing each other. Styles’ killer doesn’t have to do anything. Money easily earned, I say.”

“How could you possibly blame Gijs for..” started Krss.

“It’s not his fault. It’s Styles’. He shut us together in here and worked us into a panic,” said Tsolaelia.

“Use reason, people. Do you think Gijs locked himself in the freezer?” said Almirena.

“Then who..” started Krss. It was a night for unfinished sentences.

“The killer, obviously,” snorted Almirena. Krss had half a mind to punch some purple into her noble face. But maybe the killer would by the end of the night.

“He’s one of us..” said Marion, rocking herself. “Styles.. One of us.”

Gijs made a small sound from the back of his throat. Krss’ hand met Santi’s on Gijs’ shoulder, and they both started, blushed and withdrew.

“She may be a lunatic, but it’s the most sensible thing anyone has said tonight,” said Almirena.

“Has anyone here actually seen Styles?” asked Santi. He looked excited. Oh well, if it helped him feel better for abandoning Gijs. “How about you, r? He met you, did he not?”

“I never got a chance to see his face. He was wearing a huge collar, black glasses and a hat. I only heard his voice.”

“Did you recognize his voice on the tape?” asked Tsolaelia.

“Nah.. It was too distorted to make it out. And I was three-quarters drunk then anyway. I wouldn’t know.”

“Bull story. Maybe you’re Styles,” said Marion.

“What??” snapped r. “Say that again, woman, so I can have a reason to slap you.”

Marion never got a chance to reply, because just then there came the sound of a thousand windows breaking at the same time. Krss heard herself gasp loudly. Everyone was frozen, everyone was as scared as she was. Gijs moaned something in his sleep. Something that sounded like Zeegwall.

“What was that noise?” Krss complained, rubbing her ears.

“The chandelier..” said Santi. “It fell.”

They all ran out of the room at the same time. The main hall, as large as it was, was littered with the remains of the chandelier— there was glass everywhere, over the bent and twisted metal pieces. She had had no idea the wretched thing had been that big.

Marion fell to her knees, wailing and sobbing loudly. Krss did not want to hear that. She had had enough of that to last for a few lives, and that particular life might end soon enough; she didn’t want to waste it by listening to Marion. “I’ll take her upstairs. I can’t deal with her anymore. I can’t,” she said, looking at Santi. He nodded.

Careful to avoid the shards, Krss dragged Marion up the stairs. When they arrived at the top, Marion whimpered, “I have to go to the bathroom..”

Krss let her go and waited near the banister. From up there the spectacle was even worse. Or better. The lights from the other rooms fell upon the wreck of the chandelier, which was giving more light dead than it had alive. It sparkled with all the colors of the rainbow. Everyone was wandering around it aimlessly.

Marion exited the bathroom and limped towards her bedroom. Krss followed her. Right in front of her room, she stumbled and grabbed a piece of the banister, which broke and made her fall on all fours. Krss rolled her eyes, picked her up and shoved her inside her room, then hastened back down. All the others were still looking at that chandelier as if it was the apocalypse. Krss went inside the living room to check on Gijs.

He wasn’t there anymore.


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 5:05 pm on Oct. 18, 2006 | Link to this post

Tsolaelia spread Marion’s silky red hair on the pillow with her fingertips. She was sleeping so soundly that she had had to check her breath to see that she was alive. Santi was pacing to and fro in the bedroom.

“We’ll find Gijs. Someone is bound to come across him in our search. There is a pair covering each level,” Tsolaelia whispered reassuringly.

Santi pulled at his curls. His hair was in disarray, but Tsolaelia couldn’t blame him. Hair was the least of their problems that night. “Let’s go out and search the rest,” she said.

They went out on the landing. There were so many doors.. Gijs might be anywhere, and it was so easy for him to hide until they’d passed something, and then go back to it. But she didn’t tell Santi that. He didn’t need more anxiety. He needed a stimulating topic to keep his mind off Gijs.

“Funny..” she began, while they entered Gijs’ bedroom. It was empty, but then she hadn’t expected it to contain Gijs. That would have been too easy. Santi let out another frustrated sigh. She had to entertain him. “Funny how this little group reminds me of a dysfunctional family.”

“A dysfunctional family?” he repeated blankly, as they went back out.

“Yes.. And some of the people here have assumed the classical roles of children in a dysfunctional family.” He seemed interested in that, so she could continue. “There’s the Good Child, the family hero who assumes the parental role.. That’s you,” she smiled.

He smiled bitterly back. “I could be Styles’ killer for all the good I did Gijs..”

Not Gijs again. Okay, think, Tsolaelia, think. “There’s the Problem Child.. that’s definitely r,” she snickered. “The Caretaker, the one who takes responsibility for the emotional well being of the family.. That’s me,” and she felt her face heating. “And gabnic, of course,” she added quickly.

They were now in Krss’ bedroom. The Estradiol was on the nightstand. So many problems around one little bottle.

“Who else?” asked Santi.

“The Lost Child; the quiet one whose needs are often ignored or hidden. That was Bearic.” She felt a pang of pain at the word ‘was’. It was still too hard to believe two people had died in the same house as her.

Santi nodded.

“And then there’s the Mastermind. the opportunist who capitalizes on the rest of the family’s mistakes to achieve his own goals. That one.. I don’t know who that is. If we have him.”

“I hope we will find out before Sunday morning. Because, if we believe Styles, none of us will see it. Now where could Gijs be?”

Tsolaelia abandoned the hopeless cause.


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 10:47 pm on Oct. 18, 2006 | Link to this post

“I think I found a loose bar here,” came gabnic’s shout, followed by the sound of breaking glass. Krss came closer to see what he was talking about. He had just broken the glass behind what indeed looked like a loose bar in a kitchen window grating. The storm screamed and tried to fit in through the open frame, but all it could manage to do was wet gabnic’s shirt.

He looked up at her in excitement. “Maybe we can get out through here! I need a crowbar or something..”

Krss had an idea. “I’ll get you one from the attic. I saw some wooden sticks earlier when I searched the house.”

“Okay, rush and get it.”

Krss nodded and went out in the hall. She avoided the chandelier and ran up the stairs to meet with Santi and Tsolaelia just as they were coming out of Almirena’s bedroom.

“gabnic might have found a way out! I’m going to the attic to get him a prybar.”

They both smiled strained smiles.

“Anything.. new?” she asked, but she already knew the answer to that before they shook their heads. “Well.. keep looking. We’ll find him.” Krss noticed that Santi had circles under his eyes, and for the first time she felt kinship. “I’m off to the attic.”

She was almost at the end of the flight of stairs when they disappeared into r’s bedroom.


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 11:07 pm on Oct. 18, 2006 | Link to this post

Bottles. So many bottles. So many full bottles. Large, red, with golden square labels. r’s hands and jaw had never shaken so much in his life. He had stopped trying to wipe off his sweat a while ago. It was useless. His head was splitting in two. His body wanted the drink. After three tries, he managed to grab one of the bottles. It looked ruby and inviting. Yeah. He knew better than that. Poison, all of it. He threw the bottle into a wall.

“Poison!! You’re not doing this to me again, Styles, you b*stard!” shouted r. The room was spinning in red and gold. He could feel his stomach rushing up to meet his mouth but he didn’t care. Almirena was out there somewhere, he could barely see her. Her mouth moved but she made no sound. She was so blurry, so unreal in her stupid red dress with that large yellow buckle..

What was that.. a tool shed? He stumbled towards it. He had to reach it. He knew he’d find something good inside. A cure for the poison. He fell to his knees, waited until his head stopped spinning and grabbed the first weapon he could find— a shovel.

He limped painfully to the bottle shelves and swung the shovel wildly into it at random. “Taste this, you son of a..” Glass exploded. He could barely see shards had gotten stuck in his skin, but he couldn’t feel them. He raised and lowered the shovel again and again, throwing the damned liquid all over the walls, all over the floor, all over him. That was Styles in the shelves and he could kill him if he broke all of his bottles. He hit, he kicked, he screamed out loud, and he broke glass after glass, bottle after bottle, liquid spraying like a fountain..

And then r collapsed. He had broken all of them, he would live now.. But what was.. what was that giant bottle, red with a golden label, almost as large as he was? The ultimate bottle. He had to kill that one, because it would spawn more bottles if he left it alive. It was running away, don’t let it run away!

r tackled the bottle and when it was pinned under him he hacked at it with the shovel until the bottle stopped moving and shed its liquid. But why was it red? Water didn’t have a color. It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter anymore, he had killed all the bottles and their mother and he would live and.. was that water on his face?

He fell back. There was water falling on his face.. He didn’t know where it had come from, and he didn’t care. It was water, poison, and he had to run if he wanted to live, but he knew he wouldn’t run. As surely as he knew he was going to die.


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 11:38 pm on Oct. 18, 2006 | Link to this post

gabnic was drumming impatiently on the window sill when Krss returned with what looked like a stick. “Where did you get that?”

“The attic.”

Had she just smirked? It didn’t matter. gabnic took the stick from her hand and placed it into the grating as a lever. “Help me with this.”

She came and grabbed the free end of the stick together with him. “Say when.”


They both grunted and pulled, but it wouldn’t move.

“Again?” Krss asked.


gabnic thought his muscles would jump out of his skin, but it didn’t move. “Again,” he said.

This time they were rewarded with a crack. Something surged into his throat as he checked the grating, but the bar hadn’t moved. Then what..?

“Oh, damn, the stick broke,” said Krss matter-of-factly.

A bitter taste filled gabnic’s mind. Maybe the bar wasn’t as loose as he’d thought, as he’d hoped.. They needed help.

“Call r and Almirena to help,” he told her.

“Aren’t you coming with me?”

gabnic shuddered. The basement.. the coal lump. “I’d rather wait here. I have a.. kind of.. phobia of being buried alive. And the coals down there..”

“Okay,” she nodded. “Stay here, I’m going to fetch them right now. And we’ll break out of this place!”


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 12:10 am on Oct. 19, 2006 | Link to this post

“The second level is clear,” announced Tsolaelia.

“What’s the next step?” asked Santi. He knew very well what the next step was. The attic. No one else had found him anywhere else. Santi was deadly positive about what he’d find in there. Which was why he didn’t want to say it. Maybe if he didn’t say it, and maybe if they didn’t go there..

What if he’s alive after all? But the lone thought seemed just his mind’s way of comforting itself.

“The attic,” said Tsolaelia.

Santi felt his voice catch in his throat. He couldn’t do this. “You go first.” He had to do this. “.. No, wait. I’ll go first.”

There were thirteen steps up to the attic, and each new step slowed Santi down, until, when he arrived in the attic, he was barely moving. The main hallway of the attic was empty, dusty and dark. He allowed himself to breathe and flicked open the light switch.

The door to the dryer was closed.

No, not closed. It was locked from the outside.

Santi’s heart was beating at an alarming rate. Maybe he isn’t in there, he could be anywhere in this house, it’s a big house..

His heart grew heavier with each inch he took towards the locked door. He didn’t want to do this. He unlocked it slowly, held his breath and counted to ten.

He would do this.

The door creaked open, and at first Santi had a flutter of hope that the room might have been empty.. But it wasn’t. Gijs was curled into a ball next to a painting. He was dead. Santi knew that without having to touch him. Gijs was.. dead.

He is dead.

Santi knelt next to Gijs’ body and touched his neck, uselessly. There was no pulse. His death mask was contorted, as if he had died of fright. And he had died alone. Santi felt the sobs rising in his chest, but he managed to do one last thing before he crumpled next to Gijs. He looked at the title of the painting.

“The Beast of Sigiswald”..



Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 12:28 am on Oct. 19, 2006 | Link to this post

The first thing that told Krss something was wrong in the cellar was the smell. It smelled like a toilet that had been puked into. How could r and Almirena stand that smell? What had they been doing down there all this time, anyway?

The first view of the scene was so strange it took half a minute for Krss to comprehend it. The blood was the first thing she understood. Blood was everywhere. On the walls, on the floor, on the shelves, even on the ceiling. r’s body was lying on its back, water flooding his face. The water came from a small window someone had broken, which allowed all the rain to pour inside.

By looking at the easiest part, Krss was postponing looking at the centerpiece of the room. But now it was time to see that too; so she looked. In the middle of the cellar floor laid a heap of some things her mind told her were pieces of a dead human. There was a shovel next to the remains. It still had a bit of flesh glued to it.

Trying very hard to fight her nausea, Krss rushed up the stairs and into the kitchen. gabnic was waiting by the window.

“r and Almirena.. they’ve been killed.. they’re dead!!” she shouted. “You have to come!” She grabbed his hand.

“Calm down, there’s no use throwing hysterics,” gabnic said, following her back down into the basement.

“Look!!” Krss pointed towards the two bodies.

Unlike Krss, gabnic actually threw his stomach up. After doing it, he looked at her. “How did they die, do you think?”

“Shovel! And water! r obviously killed her, there are pieces of her all over him. And then he was kept under the water and drowned!” Krss couldn’t seem to find a way to keep the shrill tone out of her voice.

“Drowned? By whom? I was on the first floor all the time, I would’ve seen the killer..”

Krss looked at him closely for the first time. His shirt was wet.

His shirt was wet.

“Oh my God, it was you!” she shouted. “Your shirt is all wet from holding him under water! You’re right, you would have seen the killer. But you are the killer!”

“What the hell are you talking about?” he shouted back. “It’s wet from the storm! I didn’t even know they were dead! I puked my guts out at the scene!”

“You were pretending. You are the killer. You killed Nico and Bearic too, and you closed Gijs in the freezer.” She was so certain of this.

“That makes no sense at all! I was with you when Bearic and Gijs got knocked out!”

“I don’t care!” She pushed him back onto the coal pile. “Strong enough for you? I used to be a man, remember telling Santi and Gijs about it? Let’s see just how phobic of being buried alive you really are.”

She took a shovel and started throwing coal at his face. The fact he was lying there and doing nothing only made her angrier. After five shovels she realized he was dead. And then a voice came from the doorway.

“Just what do you think you are doing, Krss?”

It was Santi.


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 3:01 am on Oct. 19, 2006 | Link to this post

So Krss was the killer. How simple it was, and Santi wondered why it hadn’t occurred to him sooner. She was still holding the shovel she had just used to pour coal on gabnic’s face. Caught redhanded, much? He heard Tsolaelia rush in after him and gasp.

“What do you mean, what I think I’m doing? I think I just killed Styles’ killer,” she said, but Santi no longer believed her lies. It had been in front of him all of this time. He had been so stupid. So stupid that Gijs had died. She would pay for that.

“Killer, hmm? I want to take a look at the body. May I?” he asked, pouring all fake sincerity in his voice. It worked, because she moved aside to leave him space. The first thing he did was get the gun from the dead man’s pocket and point it at Krss. “Raise your hands now, slowly, and only you will get hurt.”

“Santi? What are you doing?” Her eyes were wide with innocence. What a snake. No, not a snake, snakes were beautiful creatures. She was a killer.

“I’m killing Styles’ killer.”

“But I just did that..” She looked towards gabnic.

“No. I mean the real killer. You.”

“I don’t understand.. Tsolaelia, he’s insane, are you going to let him do this?”

“Leave her out of this,” Santi snapped. “You killed Gijs. How could you do that?? He liked you.” His voice was breaking; this wouldn’t do.

“I didn’t kill Gijs! I would never do that to him! And Gijs isn’t dead, anyway. You’re just trying to mess with my mind.”

“Gijs is.. dead. And you killed him. You are the only person who was in the attic.”

“I wasn’t.. Okay, so what if I was?” She defied him with her hands on her hips.

“His body was in the attic. In the dryer. You said you took a prybar from there. You would have perhaps noticed, say, the dead body of your lover lying about?” His mouth was so bitter it hurt his teeth. Why was he still talking to her?

“I didn’t kill him. I didn’t go to the attic at all.”

“No? Then why did you lie about it just now?”

“I didn’t kill Gijs, okay? Because during that time I killed Marion.”

Tsolaelia gasped aloud. “Marion is dead? Why??”

“Because she put Gijs in the freezer. I couldn’t let her live. You have to understand that.” She seemed almost reasonable. It didn’t even feel like she was confessing to a premeditated murder.

“Why do you think she did that?” Santi was suddenly feeling very, very tired.

“You and her were the only ones of us who could have. When we moved from the dining room to the living room she pretended to go to the bathroom, but she never went. How do I know that? Because when I took her upstairs she wanted to go again. So if she wasn’t in the bathroom, where was she? Knocking Gijs on the head and putting him in the freezer! She even helped kill Bearic. She knew what was inside that freezer when she took him there by the hand. By the hand, Santi!”

“That is a possibility. But have you forgotten the butler and the maid?” He was actually arguing with her? Kill her while you have the chance.

“I haven’t seen them since the tape played. I think they left the house.”

Santi was confused. Could she be right? Had Marion locked Gijs in the freezer? Then who had killed him?

Suddenly, Krss gasped and pointed behind him. “Gijs! There he went!”

Santi and Tsolaelia spun quickly, but there was no one there.

“He’s alive, why were you lying to me? We have to find him!” Krss flung herself at Santi. She was trying to get his gun! Do not let her at the gun, she already killed someone, she will kill you too. She was struggling, she was about to knock it out of his hand..

And Santi shot.

Krss gave him a wide-eyed look and collapsed on the floor.

Tsolaelia rushed to her side, crying softly. “You killed her. Santi, you killed her.. You shot her.”

Santi wiped his brow and knelt next to the body. “There is no wound. Look, do you see any wound?” The pistol! He checked it quickly and, surely enough, it was loaded with blanks. “It had blanks. I couldn’t have shot her.”

Tsolaelia shook her head. “What does that mean..? How did she die?”

“I think..” He scratched his head. “I think she died because she thought she’d been shot.”

"Hey, I believe in the power of the mind as much as the next psychiatrist, but.. I don't think that's possible."

"Come, we need to have a talk about all this.” Santi took her hand and led her out of the basement.


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 3:37 am on Oct. 19, 2006 | Link to this post

Marion would have seemed asleep if it hadn’t been for the narrow hole in her forehead. Tsolaelia winced, like she’d winced at.. how many deaths? They were only two left, so.. eight people. Eight people whom she’d gotten to know and like had died, almost in front of her. She was still crying when Santi showed her Marion’s high-heeled shoe.

“I think Krss hit her with the heel,” he said. “It’s already red, but you can make out a few spots of blood on it. And hair..”

Tsolaelia shivered. How ironic.. “Let’s get out of here. I’ve seen enough,” she said, almost pleadingly. He seemed to understand she was approaching her limits, because he just nodded and followed her outside.

“I don’t remember seeing a bar missing from that,” said Santi, pointing to a gap in the banister grating.

“Is that important?” asked Tsolaelia.

“I think this might be the lever Krss took with her to give to gabnic. She had to have taken it from somewhere, and she wasn’t in..”

In the attic.. came the unspoken.

“.. And the banister was weakened from when Marion had tried to jump,” he ended.

“That sounds likely. You said we needed to talk?”

“Yes. Let’s go.. there. Let’s go to the attic. I don’t want him to be alone.”

Santi’s face was so different than how it had looked when she’d first seen him.. the night before? Or a lifetime before. He was trying to pretend, but she knew how much he was hurting from the guilt and loneliness.

“All right..”  she said.

They fell silent, and in silence they went up the stairs and into the drying room. The first thing Santi did was cover Gijs’ body with a blanket. “I don’t want to see his face,” he explained, needlessly. There was no light in the dryer, only what came in through the door they’d left open. They sat down with their backs to the wall, so that the slanted roof was in front of them, with its small window. The storm was going at it still, but somehow the patter of the pouring rain felt friendly. It was, compared to what had happened in the house. Eight people..

Santi cleared his throat. “Pretend for a moment that Krss died because she thought she had been shot.”

Tsolaelia wanted to say once again that it was impossible, but at least he was talking, so she waited quietly to hear what he had to say. That’s what she did best, after all.

“If that is true, then others could have, as well. Take Nico’s death. We all thought he had died of poisoning; but now I am certain he only died because he imagined all of us lynching him. We were all converging on him. He got worse when I tried to touch him.”

That sounded interesting. But it was impossible. They weren’t psychic. They were all normal people. Had been.

Santi went on. “And Bearic died because he thought he’d seen a ghost. Heart attack, yes, but I think it was his own thoughts that killed him. r also died on his own. His phobia of being drowned killed him by making him believe he was really drowning. gabnic died because he thought he was being buried alive. There was no blood on him, just the coal. Krss hadn’t touched him with that shovel. Krss herself died because she thought she’d been shot.”

“What about the others?” Tsolaelia asked.

“Marion was killed by Krss. Almirena was killed by r in whatever fit of insanity he was.”

“That leaves..” She looked towards the blanket.

“I don’t know how he died. Of all the deaths, this is the one that really puzzles me. Someone went to great lengths to make him suffer. Of all of us, he suffered the most.” He blinked. “He hallucinated painfully three times, he was locked in the freezer, and he was locked in here. I don’t know who did the locking.”

“You know.. I think there might be something in your theory. There have been so many hallucinations and delusions that I kept feeling I was in a severe cases mental ward, not in a house with normal people.”

“Too many to be a coincidence. I believe they were carefully staged. Styles knew everything about us from the questionnaire. He knew our phobias, he knew what books we read, our habits.. He brought us all here, locked us in, got us into a panic, deprived r of alcohol and Krss of vegetarian food, set a snake loose, and in fact created all the conditions for us killing ourselves and each other.”

“But why? Why would he do that?”

“I wouldn’t know. Maybe he is a lunatic like Bearic said.”

They stayed in silence for a minute.

“There’s something strange about one of Gijs’ hallucinations,” said Santi.

“What is that?”

“The mirror winked at him. He had no phobia connected to the mirror. Why would he see that?”

“Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he made it up.” She was sorry for saying it as soon as it had left her mouth. “No, I didn’t mean to say..”

“Never mind. Yes, he could have lied. But why?”

“I don’t know..” she whispered.

“And what about the painting? ‘The Beast of Sigiswald’? Why did it have such a strong effect on him that he had a nightmare about it in the taxi before he arrived at the house?”

“Maybe he knew it from somewhere..” she suggested.

“Maybe. It still doesn’t explain why he would come to the attic, of all places, to look for it. It is as if he knew it was here.. But how could he have known?”

“We all explored the house. Maybe he saw it then.”

“Maybe.. So many maybes. No real answers. But there is something in this house, Tsolaelia. I would bet my life on that. Something that makes normal people act crazy.”

A gigantic shadow fell on the slanted roof. It was a woman brandishing an axe. Tsolaelia felt her throat crushing in. A killer with an axe. A serial killer. The axe was going to split her head in half and her brains would pour out. The shadow was coming at her, it was falling down, and when it touched her she would die.

She felt Santi shout her name from far away. He was trying to tell her that it was just a shadow, but she knew better. Her mind. Her mind knew better. And, as she slumped down at the foot of the wall and hit the floor hard with her head, Tsolaelia understood the true power of the mind.


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 4:19 am on Oct. 20, 2006 | Link to this post

Santi’s first instinct was to reach for Tsolaelia, even though he knew she was dead; but then self-preservation kicked in and he turned towards the source of the shadow. The butler and the maid were on the hall of the attic, and the shadow had come from the maid, who was still posing in front of the door with her axe. His hand flew to the gun he’d carried with himself for some reason. He pointed it at the smirking butler.

“I’m sorry, Sir, but I know that gun has blanks. I put them in myself.”

Santi shot anyway. The butler never even flinched. Santi shot at the maid, who had ended the charade and was now holding the axe hand along her body. She didn’t flinch either. She just grinned a toothless grin.

“The mind tricks don’t work on us, Sir,” said Walker. Santi couldn’t believe his nerve. He spoke on the same tone as if saying dinner was ready.

“What do you people want from us? From me?” asked Santi. His body was going through cold and hot shivers, and his heart was thumping so fast he couldn’t keep up with it.

“Just to die, Sir.” The butler’s hand moved towards his pocket. There was a bulge there. Something large.. a jar? Something scuttled inside, which sent a cold arrow down Santi’s spine. Could that be..

“Yes, it is exactly that, Sir. A spider. A tarantula, to be precise.”

Oh God, help me. If Walker opened that jar and showed him the spider.. maybe throw it on his face.. maybe shove it down his throat.. Santi would die. His vision blurred and his ears started ringing. He couldn’t faint now. But the spider! Oh God, the spider.. His skin crawled, all his hair stood up, and his legs were getting woozy. He would fall, and the spider would crawl all over him and..


Santi charged blindly at the butler. He had to keep his hand out of that pocket. That was the only thing that mattered in the world. He grabbed the hand and struggled. The butler was strong. Too strong. Santi could hear the spider shuffling its.. legs.. hairy legs.. so many legs.. spider.. and fell back, holding something small, hard and pointy.

“And now, Sir, it is time for you to die,” said Walker.

Santi looked up at him and noticed a trickle of sweat on his cheek.

His vision wasn’t blurry anymore.

He watched Walker put his hand inside the pocket and take out the jar, in which the spider was throwing itself against the glass.. But it was just a spider in a jar. Ugly, yes, but just a spider.

What’s going on here?

Answers later; he needed to end this now. As the butler let the spider loose on the floor, Santi rushed inside the dryer and grabbed the first bat he saw. When he returned to the twosome with it, he was satisfied to see looks of horror on both their faces. They hadn’t expected this to happen, had they? They had thought he was going to die like all the others, without a struggle. Well.. not him. Not now.

Santi swung the bat twice and the two fell to the floor. The spider ran off somewhere, but Santi didn’t care at all about it. He went into the clothes hanging area of the dryer and took two long ropes with which he tied the two bodies. They’d live. He was not a killer.

Oh, but he was. He’d killed Krss. The gun had had blanks, but that was a technicality. He’d shot her. The house had made a killer out of him. And then he realized what Styles had intended in the first place, with his ominous messages. He had cleanly divided them into killers and victims. Tell someone there is a killer after them, and they will either decide to fight or to die. Nothing in between.

And then the killers became the killed. Even him. He was supposed to be the last victim. What had gone wrong? He realized he was still gripping something in his left hand and opened it. It was one of the butler’s cufflinks.

The mind tricks don’t work on us, Sir. Why didn’t the tricks, whatever that was in this house, work on them? What was so special about the butler and the maid?

They were protected by something. Santi’s head had cleared immediately after seizing that cufflink. He wondered..

He left the cufflink on the floor and took five steps away from it, towards the jar. He was assaulted by the image of the spider inside that, even if it was empty now. Maybe it lurked somewhere, waiting for him, maybe it was climbing on his leg right then..

Santi shook himself and picked up the cufflink. The spider thoughts vanished.

All right. Now that it was settled that the cufflink offered some sort of protection, and with the two killers tied up and unconscious, he could sit down and think about his situation. He was alone, locked in a large house, in the middle of a storm, with no connections to the outside. A question formed itself on the back of his mind. He waited patiently for it to get to the surface. He had all the time in the world.

Where had Walker and Mrs. Perkins been until then? They had searched the entire house and not found anyone. But to be able to orchestrate all that had happened, they had had to be in the house. The only place they hadn’t explored was behind the large iron door in the basement, but that door was locked with a strange triangular key. Maybe the butler had that key on him.

Santi went to the two bodies outside and searched the butler’s pockets. In his left pocket there was a keychain with at least ten keys. None triangular.

So maybe they hadn’t stayed in there after all.

What was another place he hadn’t gotten in? The master bedroom. There was surely one key to the master bedroom on that chain. That made sense. Santi rushed down the stairs and stopped in front of the large bedroom. His heart had restarted its pounding. God only knew what waited behind that door, but it was his only lead.

The seventh key fit the lock. Santi opened the door a crack, expecting something to fly out of there and bite him. Nothing came out. He entered the room.

All the furniture was covered with white sheets. The sheets were dusty. The whole place looked as if it hadn’t been used for some time. There were paintings on the wall, all of them of a pretty young woman with almond eyes. Who might she have been?

There was no time for idle speculation. Santi went around the bedroom in search of anything that might have looked like a key to the front door. He passed a small mirror on the right wall, quite high, such that he could only see his face reflected in it. He lifted all the sheets in turn waiting for a hand to grab his every time. Nothing. He finally arrived at the closet on the left wall.

Something could be in there poised to kill him, but he would have to take that over starvation and loneliness. The doors of the closet creaked open and Santi found himself looking at a dumb waiter, big enough to fit two people in.


The carriage was pulled by cables, and, through a crack, Santi could see it went down at least one floor. He climbed inside and slowly pulled at the cable. The thing moved perfectly, showing that it had been used very recently. Well then, he would find out what secret the house was hiding from him.

The first stop was dark and cold. Santi realized he was inside the freezer. Suddenly everything that had happened in that place fell together. The servants could have come and gone through there enough to scare Bearic, enough to roam the house in the dark.. enough to hit Gijs on the head and drag him in. The last thought made him seethe. Maybe he’d kill them later; now he had to know.

He continued his descent until the dumb waiter hit bottom. Santi had arrived in a dark, closed space, which he realized was another closet. What would he see when he opened the doors?

Taking a deep breath, he threw both doors open.

He was met by a familiar smell and a familiar sight. The smell and sight of a laboratory. It was a huge room, and it seemed empty. On his left he could see a large worktable with a computer, strewn with scribbled papers. On his right was another long table, on which he could see jars that contained a pink liquid in which floated.. human brains?? What kind of madman was Styles?

Santi continued his exploration. On the wall in front of him, he could see a series of freezers whose contents he really didn’t want to know. Then there was a medical chair that had a headpiece with many wires, connected to a few large electronic devices. On the left wall there was a table with many measurement instruments, connected, again, to brains floating in jars. Some of them were even beeping. What kind of sick twisted experiments was Styles doing in here? The last thing in the room was a dressing screen, which seemed very incongruous in a laboratory.

Santi turned to the computer. Could it be connected to the internet? Could he hope that he could send a message to the police or to his colleagues? The screen shown on the monitor was mostly blue and black. It looked like a table filled with text. The title said, “CORT-X Guestroom”. Never mind that now. Did Gmail work? He opened a browser and wiped his sweaty hands on his pants, because the mouse kept sliding from his grip. He typed in the address and waited, breathlessly.

The screen was loading! Now what was that password?

“Do you need any help, Santi?”

Santi started so violently the mouse went crashing into the wall. He turned around. A man was coming out from behind the dressing screen. Why hadn’t he thought of checking! Stupid, stupid! He froze in the chair as the man came closer. He was wearing a long, dark robe, his blond hair was in a ponytail, and his face was hidden by a mask that reminded Santi so much of the Phantom of the Opera that he had to stifle an insane giggle.

“Styles..” he whispered.

“Yes, I am known to you under that name.. but, as a matter of fact, there is another I would rather you used, in the few minutes you have left to live.” The man slowly took off his mask. Santi forgot to breathe.

“Gijs..” he whispered. “How? Why? .. How?

“Almost. I am Gijs’ twin brother. You may call me Gijs2.”


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 4:27 am on Oct. 20, 2006 | Link to this post

Gijs2 took a chair next to Santi, whose hands had gone numb. He looked so much like Gijs that his heart hurt. Gijs2 smiled at him. “You have a very strong mind, Santi. I knew you would be the last. I’m sorry that you will have to die too, but think of the knowledge I will gain from studying your brain patterns. The man who resisted the amplifier for so long.”

“The amplifier?”

“You surely have figured it out by now. The entire house has been saturated with the waves of my neural amplifier. What it does, basically, is amplify brain waves..”

“.. until your own mind kills you.”

Gijs2 nodded. “You see the importance of my experiment, which was so successful. The power of the mind triumphed over matter. Your phobias and instabilities got amplified so much that some of you died by themselves, and others were killed by some of you.. who, in turn, died. Only you remained. And I feel lucky for that, because I was aching to discuss this with someone intelligent. Walker and Perkins are boring company.”

“You dirty.. bast..”

“Language, Santi. Do not forget I hold your death in my pocket. It is eight-legged. Don’t try anything rash, either. I also have a gun, and this one is loaded.”

Another spider? Then Gijs2 didn’t know Santi was protected. Maybe he could use this to his advantage.. Santi’s mind started racing. Once Gijs2 found he was immune to the spider he’d use the gun. He had to gain time. And he had plenty of questions for that.

“Why did you kill your own twin? Why did you make him suffer so much?”

“Just because he was my twin, and it was an opportunity to study the reactions of my body without me actually having to go through the process of dying. So you can understand how delighted I was when he entered the bogus competition for the house.”

“The mirror.. It was you in the mirror, wasn’t it? You winked at him. You were in your bedroom and the mirror there somehow communicates with the one in the bathroom..”

“You are astute. Yes, indeed. I hadn’t expected anyone to make the connection.”

“And.. when Krss said she saw Gijs behind us, when we were in the basement.. she really saw you.”

Gijs2 nodded.

“Tell me about Gijs. About the painting. Everything.” The waves were probably all over the lab. Gijs2 must’ve worn protection too. Where could the protection be? He wore a robe, no cufflinks.. The buttons! How could he use that?

“That is understandable curiosity.. Gijs lived here when we were both small. Once, he cut the rope of the chandelier and it crashed into the great hall. Our father was so angry that he locked him into the attic for a week, with that painting of the werewolf, ‘The Beast of Sigiswald’. That made him claustrophobe. Soon afterwards he ran away from home. I can only assume he repressed his early memories. He never consciously knew he had lived here.”

Buying more time.. “Where did you come up with our nicknames?”

“Oh, I took them from a messageboard where I lurk as a guest. They’re all quirky people. I had to laugh to myself at the irony of some of the choices.”

“So.. The butler did it?”

“Yes. The two spent a lot of time here, with me, but sometimes they went out. To place that snake, for instance, or to replace the bullets with blanks, or to replace Nico’s pills with placebos. I sent Walker for candles when the lightning bolt struck and the lights burnt. He found Gijs and took the initiative. And then, he cut off the chandelier rope from the attic at my orders; I had hoped Gijs would remember some of what he had repressed and come to the attic. He did, and Walker locked him inside. He died, of course.”

Santi realized that the man in front of him was going to die. And that he was going to kill him. But still he didn’t know how. “So none of what you announced was true? With the killer among us?”

Gijs2 yawned. “Your mind was the killer among you, dear Santi. And now, I’m afraid that was all I had to say. It has been a pleasure knowing you, even if briefly.” Gijs2 took the jar out of his pocket and unfastened the lid. The spider rushed out and scrambled across the floor towards Santi. It was ugly, and hairy, but just a spider.

“You are stronger than I had thought! Let me increase the amplitude a little.” Gijs2 turned a knob to the right. “Not even now? You brain will be a miracle for my studies. I can see what my brother saw in you.”

That was enough.

Santi lunged forward and ripped off the buttons of Gijs2’s cloak. Gijs2 gasped in surprise. Santi kicked the buttons far away, to the other end of the lab, and ducked under the computer table. Gijs2 still had the gun. He would use it. But maybe he was lucky and he wouldn’t have the time.. if his calculations had been correct.

“Santi, such manners.. I’m going to have to shoot you now.” Gijs2 made for the gun, but then his eyes fell on the faraway table with the pink jars. His eyes widened and he fell back on his chair. “Don’t.. don’t come closer. Don’t! Brains can’t hurt me, they can’t do anything, they’re brains.. Don’t come closer!!”

Santi took the moment to rush to the knob and turn it all the way to the right. “This is for Gijs, you son of a b*tch.”

Gijs2 crashed to the floor, desperately trying to cover his face with his hands. “Stay away!! Brain slime on my face, into my eyes, into my nose, into my mouth..” He stopped talking and started making ugly throaty noises. Santi watched with detachment as Gijs2 writhed on the floor in agony for five whole minutes before he was finally still. And then, he switched off the amplifier.

It was finished. The first rays of dawn came in through the small windows of the laboratory, and Santi realized the storm had stopped and he had survived to see the light of Sunday morning. He had, in fact, completed all the requirements for owning the house. The large, empty, cold house.

A little hiss came from behind the dressing screen. Santi started. Was it not really over? But it was just the snake, the little snake that had coiled around his leg in the freezer. He walked towards it and extended his hand. The snake hissed softly twice and slithered onto his palm, and up towards his elbow, coiling itself tightly around his arm.

Santi was no longer alone. And, his mouth stretching itself into a smile for the first time in the new life, Santi picked up the professor’s mask and carefully placed it upon his own face.


Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 4:36 am on Oct. 20, 2006 | Link to this post


Samantha Everett couldn’t help staring at the man in front of her. The mask he wore was impassible, but the eyes behind it were sad, and old. They were seated on a couch in the living room. Comfortable place. She could get used to it.

“Fascinating,” Professor Styles said. “Magic tricks are something I have never gotten a chance to learn. Maybe you can teach me.”

“Does that mean I get the job?”

“Most definitely. The house needs a warm woman’s touch. It has seen too much desolation.. lately.”

“I couldn’t say about ‘warm’, but I’d be happy to live here and help liven this place up. It’s dreary.”

“Then it is settled. Walker will show you to your bedroom; it is right next to mine. It holds.. dear memories.”

Samantha nodded. The guy was weird, and if he thought he could order her around he had another thing coming, but at least it was a roof over her head. A huge roof. “Could you give me an example of a job I’d have to do?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. Are you familiar with the Oxford campus?”

The End

Total Posts: 2307 | Joined Aug. 2006 | Posted on: 4:38 am on Oct. 20, 2006 | Link to this post
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