…beneath…

I

   The car engine started stuttering. “Dammit,” shouted James, smacking the steering wheel. A loud bang rattled the car as it began to drift aside. The lights started flickering. “What the-” James eased over, cautious the slick earth may cause more damage; an assumable future he was not willing to take part in. The engine vibrated viciously once more before finally shutting off. James laid his head on the wheel, nodding it side to side. “Now what,” he questioned. He looked up and saw a porch light shrouded by fog. He began to make out what looked like a massive house that sat atop a hill. The siding on the home consumed the darkness around it and blackened the exterior of the mansion. Despite the homes’ appeal, James knew he wasn’t going anywhere, “Why not?”. As he ran out the car, shielding his head with his black leather jacket, he noticed that the mansion stood alone; nothing existed beyond it. James ran to it, thankful there was at least one person out here.

As James approached the house, an unusual chill ran down his spine. Although it was already quite cold outside, it gave him an unsettling vibe, causing him to halt before knocking on the front door. Frozen in the pouring rain, he gazed off, thinking about what just happened. Thunder struck again, breaking James’ trance. He built the nerve to knock on the door, thrusting his first three times against the tall red barrier. James was sure to get someone’s attention. A few seconds passed when a shadow drifted by the window to the right. “Hello,” James called out; there was still no response. He raised his hand as if he were going to knock again, but the door finally opened. An old man appeared.

“Oh well howdy there. How can I help you?” asked the old man, uninterested in the hurricane like weather thrashing the exterior.

“Yes sir. You see, I’m on my way to Texas but my car broke down,” James replied pointing to his car about a quarter mile away from the house. “Unfortunately I don’t have a cell phone. I was wondering if I could use yours.”

“Come in, come in! Of course you can. There’s no need for you to be out in this rain,” said the old man in a very southern accent. He walked inside, wiped his feet on the carpet and took off his shoes. When James’ feet landed on the cold hardwood floor, another chill ran up his spine. The old man noticed James’ unease, “You okay there-”

“James,” he interrupted, finishing his sentence. “And yes I’m fine!”

“Right. Roger’s the name.”

James nodded with amenability as he hung his jacket up on a coat rack. A brief pause took place until James broke the silence, “So…your phone?” “Oh right,” Roger said leading the way further into his home.

Lightening flooded the windows, lighting the hallways for James and Roger as they made their way further into the mansion. The home felt even larger once inside. There were exquisite paintings and artifacts placed around the rooms, on top of tables, counters, and shelves. Everything inside didn’t seem like it was purchased from any ordinary store either. Animal skinned couches, carved pillars, it didn’t stop amazing James. The halls however, they were never ending.

Eventually Roger led James into the kitchen and pointed out the phone, “Here you are!”

“Thanks,” replied James. James reached for the phone and held it up to his ear; there wasn’t any tone. “Uh Roger?”

“Yes sir?”

“Your phone isn’t working,” James said hanging it up.

“What do you mean,” Roger exclaimed reaching for the talkie, only to hear the same silent void. “Must be the storm.”

“Why would a storm knock out a landline,” James thought to himself.

“Tell you what, it’s getting late, your car is out and the phone is out. I’ll have the misses get a bed ready for ya and you can join us for dinner. First thing in the morning we’ll take a look at that car of yours.”

James didn’t feel right in the house but he also felt he did need a rest from driving and they were going to feed him too; “Why not?” Also the storm was getting pretty severe and the house was his escape. James continued to follow Roger through the labyrinth hallways, guided by the lightning peering through each window to the left, followed by the roar of paintings rattling against the walls. It was so eerie to James to even be going through with this; the car sporadically died and now he is staying at a stranger’s house. And for some mysterious reason, James was completely apathetic about the situation.

Later on they were in the dining room. The kitchen was connected to the dining room via an archway; the rooms completely differed though. The kitchen had red tiles and red wallpaper. However, the dining room was white, completely white. Cabinets, walls, tables and chairs, they were all white! Here, the slightest aroma of lemon blended with the air. “Do they clean this place every day,” James thought to himself.

James continued to scope his setting as he sat across from Roger at the table. More relics caught his eye, one of which, was a stone monkey decorated in gems of different colors; it sat on top of a China cabinet filled with even more intriguing decor. Another statue was on top of some cabinets by the stove; this was even more ostentatious than the others. It was a grey statue of a child laying on a pedestal clothed in red silk; James couldn’t take his eyes off of it. “Blood,” said Roger.

“Excuse me,” replied James. Roger had been watching him look around the whole time.

“Blood, the red silk represents blood. Not of the child but of those who were sacrificed and gave their blood for the child.”

“Um, interesting,” said James rather confused.

“Yes sir that was a pricey piece of art. It’s from a tribe in Africa.”

“Did you steal it,” asked James?

“Hah no son, it was given to us,” smirked Roger

“How so,” asked James. James stared at Roger intrigued.

“It carries with it a tradition,” said Roger

“What kind of tradition,” asked James? The two stared at each other without saying anything else.

“I hope you’re ready,” exclaimed Marina as she interrupted the two men’s intense conversation with the beautiful aroma of home cooked food.

“Who is this guy,” James thought to himself. He felt even more uneased being around this man.

“And what must be your name sir,” asked Marina.

“It’s James, hi how are you?”

“This here is my wife Marina,” explained Roger making no attempt to further explain the    mysterious relic.

“Here I insist you eat.” Marina sat down a platter on the table riddled with a variety of dishes. Mashed potatoes, grilled fished, chicken in a sautéed cream. James was eager to eat now and completely forgot about the pedestal relic of the girl.

Unfortunately, once James began to fill his, once slim belly, his eyes began to wander again. This time underneath the table. He noticed a small blue and white, square carpet seemingly out of place. He brushed his foot over the rug, causing it to slide a little. Beneath, he could make out a cut into the floorboards. He pushed the carpet a little more, “a trapdoor,” he whispered aloud. “What,” Roger asked?

“How did he hear that,” wondered James.

“Oh that thing,” said Roger looking under the table. “Don’t pay that any attention,” Roger said pulling the carpet back with his foot.

“What is it,” James persistently said.

“It’s nothin’,” Roger said as he kept on eating. “Mm hun you sure do know how to make a good fixin’.”

“Oh don’t.” Roger’s wife blushed.

Roger was quick to change the subject. He didn’t want James snooping around, and James took quick note of this. As Marina picked up the dishes, James avoided the trapdoor topic.

“It’s Nice to meet you Marina. So how long have you guys lived here?”

“Well my family has owned this land for years,” explained Roger, “Me and Marina, we’ve always lived here.”

“Oh,” said James trying not to look under the table. “What’s under there,” he thought to himself, letting his curiosity get the better of him. But he couldn’t help it, the old folks didn’t seem to take anything to serious and it was quite odd. They seemed off.

Marina glanced at James; she knew what he was thinking. “So James, what brings you here?”

“Huh,” James said snapping to attention, “Oh I, uh, I’m on my way to Texas.”

“For what might I ask?”

“Family, my brother is getting married.”

“Oh how wonderful,” cried Marina.

“Weddings create some of the best memories,” said Roger sipping his drink. James squinted his eyes at Roger as he said that; he could smell the liquor in his drink.

“What about you,” asked James, “do you guys have any kids?”

Marina grew a dim look and walked out of the room.

“I’m sorry did I say something wrong,” James said feeling some sort of guilt.

“No no. We had a daughter,” Roger replied playing the scene off. “Marina just doesn’t like to talk about it anymore. We took her everywhere we went, even around the world.”

“Oh how old was she,” asked James.

“Young,” said Roger taking another sip.

“Oh,” said James. The room grew quiet and gray. James began to whistle and look around as Roger continued to eat.

An hour passed and dinner was wrapping up. James just wanted to get some sleep. Marina took the liberty of cleaning up while Roger took James to his room. It was on the bottom floor, directly under Roger’s room upstairs. The size of it was enormous. James was gifted with a king size bed with too many pillows to count. “Well you get some rest now, I’ll be sure to get up early so we can start on that car of yours,” said Roger.

“I appreciate that,” said James walking into the room.

Roger shut the door and walked away. James on the other hand, sat on the side of the bed and kept pondering about the trapdoor. He laid his head back on a pillow. “What’s beneath,” he asked himself? He sat back up and looked over to the dresser. His eyes noticed a pair of velvet pajamas laying on top of the 12 drawer, red-stained oak dresser. James got up and picked up the luxurious garments. “You old folks must love retirement,” he said walking into the bathroom carrying the pajamas. After showering, James got ready for bed and not too long after he was sound asleep, in a stranger’s mansion.

Later that night…

It was about three in the morning and the mansion became still as the storm ceased. When suddenly, a loud thump knocked on the headboard of James’ bed. He bolted up as fast as lightening, surely thinking the old folks had awoke. He checked his left, then his right. There was nothing. Suddenly a rush of pain flooded his nerves. “Ah,” James shrieked! He threw his blanket off and began rubbing his shin. It started burning intensely, but it wasn’t hot…it was cold. He took his hands off and noticed finger marks; James was awestruck. His face grew a more concerned look by the second, something was not right and he needed to leave.

 

 

II

 

The next morning, the young and old moved James’ 76’ challenger in Roger’s garage with the hood up. “This is a nice car you got here. I remember when there was a lot of these out on the road,” said Roger.

“Yea I guess I got lucky. Say Roger, I want to thank you again for helping me out,” said James.

“Well don’t go on thanking me yet son, not until the job is done,” proclaimed Roger as he began fiddling under the hood. James wasn’t technically inclined when it came to automobiles.

“Right,” James nodded, smiling as if he knew that. Roger continued to tinker with the engine. “Alright James, crank it!”

James opened the car door and leaned inside. The car screeched as he turned the key. “That’s not good,” he said to himself.

“Yea.”

“What,” asked James?

“Your electronics are fried,” said Roger as he wiped his nose with his sleeve, “You’re gonna need a starter, and probably a new alternator…maybe even a battery!”

“What! You’ve got to be kidding me,” James looked down in dismay and began shaking his head, “How does all this get destroyed? Where’s the nearest auto parts store?”

“Oh, about 10 miles up the road,” said Roger in which he immediately asked, “Were you struck by lightning?”

“No I just remember…I just remember the lights in the car started flashing and the engine cut off and then back on then off again.”

Roger didn’t reply he just stood in quiet posing like a philosopher.

“Well…could you give me a ride up there,” asked James?

“I would but, it’s Sunday.”

“What do you mean the store isn’t open on Sunday?” James voice carried with violence.

“Not around these parts kid. Looks like you’re going to have to wait.”

James exhaled harshly. “I can’t believe this,” he said dragging his hands down his face. He began to doubt Roger.

“Does he even know anything about cars? How could everything just break? Was I struck by lightning last night?” James was losing faith and his anxiety grew closer to the edge. He started pacing around the car.

“When do you have to be in Texas,” asked Roger? ”One Week,” stated James. He stopped pacing and took a deep breath. “I’ll just have to wait,” he said prior to exhaling. Roger shook his head and turned his dirty Ford baseball cap backwards, “I’m going inside. I need a break.”

Roger walked inside but James leaned against his car and contemplated his options. “Should I stay here another night. Something doesn’t feel right now. 15 miles and closed on a Sunday, who is this guy and why do they hide that trapdoor; is he hiding something?”

Around two in the afternoon James forgot about the car and began helping Roger around the house. The mansions vibe on him had grown and James himself was beginning to act different. Nonetheless it didn’t stop him from leaving.

Ironically, James did feel uneasy around Roger and his wife. Eerie sensations had consumed him as soon as he set foot on the property, and he noticed Roger wasn’t being completely honest. Alas, James didn’t have much of a choice, he had to get his car started to make it to Texas or stay here in the middle of nowhere. The way he saw it though, it seemed the latter had become his fate.

BANG! Birds screamed and scattered as the echo died. Roger came out of the woods raising his rifle. “I GOT ONE,” he yelled. James locked eyes and gave him a thumbs up. The two oddly started walking at the same time towards each other. “Hey James, you wouldn’t mind helpin’ me carry this big ol’ buck in would ya,” Roger asked wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, leaving a small amount blood in the middle. “Uh sure,” James replied cringing at the sight of the blood.

Roger gave James the rifle and told him to wait as he had to retrieve something from the shed. “What am I supposed to do with this,” James asked holding the weapon up.

“Just hold onto it,” demanded Roger!

James gazed at the cloudless sky and felt the warm sun embrace him, for once he actually enjoyed a moment, only briefly. Since recent events have shrouded him with stress, it was good to take a break.

“Back,” Roger shouted as he approached carrying some strange contraption over his shoulder. “Follow me.” Roger led the way into the woods.

James carried the rifle and Roger the device as they walked back into the woods. James was sure to follow Roger’s path, he’d rather be stuck in the house than in the woods. They walked for what felt like a half a mile until a strong odor smacked James in the face, forcing him to freeze; he looked down and saw this massive buck. The horns had to be three to four feet long. The buck’s liver, intestines, as well as many more organs laid spread out beside it. Roger had gutted it, but for some reason, took the time to organize what was inside. “Put the gun over there will ya,” Roger said pointing to a tree. James obeyed and leaned the rifle against the trunk. He then started to cough, consequently making him choke; the stench was so bad he had to prop himself against a tree and take deep breaths to avoid puking.

“Quit being a baby and help me over here,” demanded Roger.

James hesitated.

“Look if you don’t help, we don’t eat. There’s no way I can carry this that far by myself.”

“Carry,” James questioned still coughing?

Roger threw the device he was carrying on the ground to reveal that is was something to carry the deer. It was two parallel metal rods connected by thinner rods. Attached to the ladder like design were chains to wrap around the legs of the carcass. Roger asked James again to help. James finally walked over and Roger instructed him to grab the deer’s front legs. They both reached down and lifted the deer onto the stretcher. Roger then took the initiative to wrap the chains around the bloody corpse to carry it. James looked at the deer and then to Roger. Roger grinned and asked sarcastically, “You wanna carry the front?” James immediately grabbed ahold of the front of the metal poles without saying a word. The two hoisted the deer’s bed into the air and began marching back to the house.

Once they returned they brought the deer to the back of the house and strung it up, where it hang to be dismantled even further. Roger was about to step in the house until he remembered, “James, you forgot the rifle. Could you get that for me?”

James didn’t want to but didn’t have much of a choice. He walked back into the thick woods and suffered yet again from that eerie vibe from before. This time the severity made him amp up his speed a little. He started walking faster, then he began jog. He heard a little girl laughing then he began to run. He made it to the rifle but slipped on his arrival. Once he picked himself up and brushed off some dirt, he collected his thoughts. “I’m seriously acting like a child right now aren’t I?” James refocused and reached for the rifle. “Hello?” James froze. “Hello?” Someone was talking but James remained still, he didn’t want to turn around.

“Who’s there,” he called out.

“I am,” the voice said.

James turned around gripping the rifle as if he served. It was a little girl in a black dress whose skin was as white as snow. Her eyes were glossed and hollow. James’ mouth dropped and eyes widened. James managed to put about four words together. “Wh-What uh do you want.” The girl took a step forward, “help me,” she whispered before dematerializing right before his very eyes.

 

III

   James was growing anxious. When he made it back to the house he couldn’t shake the thought of the girl. He thought more of why he saw that ghost rather than the simple fact he did. He set Roger’s rifle against the house and then climbed the back porch stairs onto the deck. When he walked in Roger walked right into him and handed out a towel and treated him to some of those hotel shampoo and conditioner bottles. “Here you go, these might help freshen you up,” said Roger, handing the items to James. “Oh, thank you,” said James, carrying his worry in his speech.

“You alright there,” asked Roger? He could sense James’ dismay.

“Yea I’m fine,” said James walking off to his room to take a shower.

“You won’t be,” Roger said under his breath as he lost sight of James.

Later on, the three gathered in the dining room. The thought of the trapdoor escaped James again; he was more tranced in what happened earlier in the woods.

Marina brought out dinner, intoxicating the air around them with the delicious aroma of grilled venison. James made him a plate and dug in. “Mm Marina what is this, it’s fantastic,” said James stabbing some tender meat on his plate. Marina just giggled. “That would be your hard work son,” Roger responded. James tried to giggle with his mouth full but started choking. He reached for some water to force the food into his stomach. After obtaining the ability to talk James said, “I’ve never had deer before.”

“That’s a shame, its lean, makes ya a man,” said Roger.

“Well its good you like it,” added Marina.

“You seem to be feeling better,” stated Roger.

“What are you talking about? I’m fine,” said James.

“Didn’t seem that way earlier. Something happen earlier?”

“Um no not really,” explained James.

“Oh,” exclaimed Roger!

“What’s with this guy, is he watching me everywhere I go,” James thought to himself.

The three spoke for about an hour until they had finished dinner. Marina had begun disposing of the stained dishes while James and Roger were finished up their game of poker.

Roger laid out five cards on the table, “two to six of hearts. What’s going on here James, not your game?”

James just smirked, insuring Roger he had a trick up his sleeve. James drew a card and fashioned a rather blank stare. Just as Roger began to laugh at James’ failure, James dropped all of his cards on the table; four aces, a Hollywood ending for the game. “Well I’ll be,” said Roger, “you son of a bitch.” For the first time, James felt relaxed here.

“Well I guess I’m off to bed, have to get those parts early tomorrow,” said James. As soon as he said that, a loud knock bumped under the table. A moment of silence disbursed throughout the room while a worried look consumed James.

“You know James, I’m sorry about your car,” said Roger, “unexpected things happen all the time. Like how a person like you ends up staying here this weekend.”

James didn’t know what to say, “Uh, I’m sorry?”

Roger chuckled and continued, “Just go get some rest, we will be up in the morning…” Roger got up while he was talking and approached James and put his hand on his shoulder and said, “…and don’t worry about the trapdoor, alright?”

“O-Okay? I wasn’t really thinking of it,” replied James.

Roger smiled creepily and said, “Right. Have a good night.”

James remained still and Roger paced off to his bedroom. “Okay what the hell did he mean by that,” James thought. Holes formed in his clothes as his hair pierced through his shirt; fear crept over every inch of his body. James was scared.

He tried to rest in his bed laying on his back but he couldn’t push what Roger said. It didn’t make any sense. James’ reminiscence on the events that had unfolded this weekend, propelled his mind into insanity. There was a dark energy overcoming him. The girl, the trapdoor, the old folks? “What is going on, what is happening!” He knew he needed to leave but something was holding him back. He just could not figure it out.

This went on all night causing James to toss and turn constantly. He remembered the little girl outside and all the weird sensations he had encountered since he had been there. Eventually he came to the conclusion it all had to do with the trapdoor. He just had to know.

James thought Roger surely be fast asleep by now, after all, he was old. He checked the clock beside his bed again and got up. It was 3 a.m. Through the windows, a dark fog eased its way over the mansion, casting the house into a void. An energy grew inside James causing his focus to distract him from his own consciousness. Tip-toeing over to the bedroom door in Roger’s velvet pajamas, James peeked outside; the coast was clear.

 

 

IV

 

Floorboards creaked as James made his way to the dining room. The home was nice but delicate and old. He grinded his teeth, James moved like a fox, swiftly running silently down each hallway. Eager to find whatever it was, if anything, James kept on, determined to find something. The once confusing maze of halls became known to him, he didn’t slow down or hesitate. He knew exactly where to go.

When he made it to the trapdoor he could hear someone moving upstairs; he paused. Completely still, he hid in case Roger was policing. He could hear a toilet flush, giving himself much needed relief. James continued until he found the dining room. He crouched by the trapdoor and removed the carpet concealing. As he tried to keep his center balance the floor continued to squeak.

James gradually pushed the table away just enough to give him room to open the door. He hoisted it the door up and peered down below. There was a rusted old ladder heading straight down and the faintest light illuminating at the bottom. James took a deep breath and climbed down. “What’s down here,” he said to himself as he put one foot on the ladder.

As he descended, the ladder became slick; he placed his dirty boot onto the next step it not knowing it would be a mistake. The wet rail gave way and sent him straight down. Luckily it was only about four feet. “Ouch,” he said to himself sarcastically.

He took a moment to get his bearings. It was one room, about 20 feet long and 20 feet wide. The room would be pitch black if it weren’t for the dozen candles spread out through the room. As James’ eyes adjusted to the light he could see long black bags dispersed around the room; mainly near the candles. “What the fuck is this,” asked James in disgust?

James approached one of the bags on the floor and keeled down. There was a zipper running all the way from top to bottom. James had an idea as to what was contained but he was hoping they wasn’t right. As the zipper came undone, a stench so sour and so raw, punched James in the face knocking him on his ass. “Oh God what is that?” he shrieked in horror!

He covered his face with his shirt and continued to unzip the bag. He pulled it apart and saw a face roll towards him. “Body bags,” James yelled! He quickly zipped it up and started crawling backwards, pausing to roll over and puke. He started hyperventilating whilst scanning the room for anything dangerous. His emotions were in sync; he was very afraid but moved with purpose, like he was being guided.

This is when he made eye contact with something he’d seen before. It was a pedestal made of concrete covered in red, like the statue he saw when he arrived. He suddenly remembered the girl being part of that art and shot up. He sprinted over to the pedestal to find a little girl, no more than the age of five, laying on the pedestal in a pool of blood. She was wearing a black dress like the girl he saw in the woods. As a matter of fact it was the girl from the woods. He felt for a pulse but there was none, she was dead but her body was perfectly preserved. “How could this be?”

Suddenly, James heard someone hop off the ladder, the only way in and out of the room. The sound of two feet pounding the ground grew louder and louder; James’ face lost any and all hope. He slowly turned around to see Roger approaching wielding a shotgun. James stuck his hands up. “What are you doing Roger?”

“I’m giving you away.”

“What the fuck are you talking about,” asked James concerned more than ever. He started looking around the room for some kind of defense.

Roger pumped the shotgun and slowly walked closer to James. Aiming from the hip Roger said, “You will renew her, keep her pure. Your death will grow her energy.”

James’ mind raced, puzzled by what Roger was saying. “What is this?” James asked dumbfounded? He realized the little girl had something to with everything going on, but couldn’t tie it up.

“Do you understand now,” asked Roger, aiming straight for James’ heart.

“Why are you doing this,” James cried?

“You don’t know what it’s like to witness hell. She has waited for you. You’ve been selected.” explained Roger gripping the shotgun firmly.

“But why, why all of this. Why treat me? Is this for her or for you?” It began to dawn on James that there was no law here, nor any amount of faith or hope; he slowly lost every bit of humanity standing in that room.

“We needed you her to give her strength, she has already begun absorbing you. She chose you, that’s why she stopped your car.” screamed Roger, charging at James.

James stood speechless connecting the pieces.

James’ eyes widened as he seemed to be nearing his death. Time slowed down and the whisper returned, brushing James’ ear. “Run.”

James didn’t really have much time to process what exactly that meant or what was going on, so with a leap of faith he charged towards Roger tackling him to the ground, causing the shotgun to discharge a shell and slide away from the two. It was so close to Roger and James, the blast penetrated their eardrums. In pain, they rolled around the floor covering their lobes with their hands, trying to get up. James managed to climb up first and began running towards the ladder. He was still in shock, making him stagger and trip on the way out. Roger got up as James tripped on the floor.

Roger very slowly made his way to the shotgun. James looked back and immediately started crawling to the ladder. Roger, laughing at James, blinked his eyes trying to rid them of the light caused by the bullet discharge. James crawled hectically. As Roger picked up the shotgun he chuckled, “too bad you’re going to miss that wedding; they really are great.” Roger hoisted the weapon against his shoulder and aimed where James was, only to find his leg flying up the ladder.

James flew up the ladder and rolled out of the chute. Breathing heavily, he didn’t have much time before Roger started shooting at him again. He raced through the labyrinth house, guided subconsciously. It wasn’t long before he rushed into the guest room to grab his back pack. James me no attempt to stop and think.

He continued until he reached his car in the garage. He slammed the hood down on his car and rushed into the driver seat. He shut the car door and tried to start the car. It made no attempt to crank. The whisper rolled back into his ear, “save me.”

Roger kicked open the door from the house to the garage and aimed at James in the car. James leaned into the passenger seat while Roger fired a shot into the windshield. Roger neared the car and reached for the door handle but was beat when James pushed the door open on Roger, knocking him down. Instinctively, James grabbed the weapon and pointed it at Roger.

“You can’t kill me. I’m too strong; she makes me strong,” said Roger.

“Oh really,” asked James? James tightened his grip on the trigger.

“You aren’t sh-.” A blast muted the room. James interrupted Roger with a shell straight through the chest. Roger’s stomach turned inside out sending blood all over James, the car, and the garage. James just stared at Roger’s corpse without any consideration for his actions. He remained there, lost in his mind, controlled by something else. It wasn’t James anymore.

As James’ presence lingered, doors could be heard opening within the house. James rushed back in and traced his steps back to the trapdoor. He entered the kitchen, hearing Marina running down the stairs. “ROGER,” she screamed. Marina rounded the corner into the kitchen and froze. James was waiting, aiming the shotgun straight at her. Marina was a holding a .357 magnum but wasn’t aiming it at James, “Where’s my husband,” Marina said starting to sob.

James pulled the trigger and blew off Marina’s arm. His morality was no longer here.

“Dead,” he responded to her lifeless body. He then threw the shotgun on the floor, running into the dining room. In a sprint he slid into the ladder chute. He went to girl on the pedestal and picked her up, carrying her back up to the surface. “What now,” he said aloud. The whisper returned once more and faintly said, “Bury.” James had reached an epiphany and ran out of the house and made way to the woods.

 

 

V

 

James hustled into the woods with the girl over his shoulder. Vibrant energy fueled his veins, sprinting almost a mile in the woods. After running what must have been a mile, he stopped in the vast dense forest. “Okay what now,” he asked himself?

He laid the girl against a tree and sat down beside her. Letting out a deep breath he said, “What am I doing here? You led me here now what?” James looked around until he got the slightest glimpse of a shed. Getting back on his feet, he made way towards the old building. The door had a padlock on it. “Well now,” James said feeling the lock, “should’ve brought the gun.” He decided to try kicking it open. Success! Like an animal, he ran in and scanned the old decrepit building; he found a shovel and ran back outside.  His body was no longer under his control.

Once back to the little girl, James picked her up. He searched the woods for an open area. It was taking some time but to his luck he broke free of the tree line and was in large field. He found a single apple tree out in the open and rushed to it. He felt this was all right. This all part of the bigger picture now, he was beginning to understand.

Without hesitation, he laid the girl down and began to dig. Burrowing faster and faster, he made a wide hole in the ground, grabbing the girl and laying her in it. Her body disappearing as he rushed to fill the burial with dirt.

“Now you are free,” James said before completely burying her body. The whisper didn’t return nor did any sensation continue to overcome him. Maybe this was meant to be. When he finished, he didn’t leave yet. He felt as if one thing was missing. He remembered spotting a few flowers back near the shed so he ran back and grabbed enough to make a small bouquet and laid it on the girl’s grave. He closed his eyes as if to say a prayer. Still and silent, all sensation left his body. James had changed but his mind was at peace, no longer taking any action to make decisions. As he opened his eyes, he appeared back in the cellar where he fought Roger. The old man’s body was there on the ground with his wife. The last of the blood leaving their body. AS it drained it rolled towards the pedestal. James’ sight followed the direction of the blood as it continued to climb the stand, on top it was flowing into the girl’s body, whom laid on top as if she had always been there and always will be.

James exhaled. “I’m home now.”

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