House of Memories 5
DescriptionA man seeks to find clues about several disappearances in a remote area. He finds them.
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5: PainAlan laid on the broken boards that were once stairs. Pain shot through his back as he watched Melinda be pulled into the darkness, her screams becoming distant unnaturally fast. Alan wanted to call her name but found himself in a daze of silence and paralysis. All he could do was stare into the darkness of the attic in complete shock. Finally after what was only a few seconds, but felt like minutes, Alan heard doors opening and footsteps approaching. A hand reached down and pulled him up. Calvin stood with the help of the hand in front of him. "What the hell happened?" Calvin asked as he helped Alan to his feet and then looked toward the attic. Calvin's voice sounded muffled and almost far away. The sound of cackling laughter and Melinda's screams continued to become more and more distant, obviously far away from the house now. Alan wanted the sound to stop and had a sudden intense urge to cover his ears. He resisted the urge and finally shifted his attention to Calvin. Alan grunted with an aching back and said, "He has her now." Alan looked up at the dark hole again and back to Calvin. "I thought he couldn't get inside?" Alan asked accusingly to Calvin. Alan saw now that several doors in the hallway were open and Florence stood at the top of the second story stairs, holding the railing with a trembling hand and staring at them with a worried expression. Calvin stepped back a bit with a confused expression and said, "He has never come inside before." Calvin looked up at the hole and backed away from it further, as if afraid the killer would come in. Alan also felt this fear and they both moved away from the hole. Down the hall, two doors were open. On the side with odd numbered doors, behind the #1 door with it half open, stood a young woman with blonde hair in a long white nightgown. She was pregnant. The nightgown was covered in both fresh and dried blood right around the front of her abdomen. She held a brush in one hand and her other hand on her door. She stared at Alan with a look of concern and fear across her face. On the side with the even numbers, behind the #4 door, there stood a horrible visage of a man. He stood at the door frame, using his right side to steady himself against the frame. He was tall, wearing a button up dress shirt tucked into black khakis with stains of blood that covered his collar as well as his left side. While his right side was definitely his good side, his left told a very different story. His left leg slumped on the floor, lifeless and barely hanging on, clearly mangled beyond saving. Blood seeped visibly through his pants despite their dark color. His left arm seemed even worse. The shirt's left arm was ripped away, revealing the arm completely. It hung lifeless at his side, but not only that, it was easy to see that the only reason it stayed attached to his body at all, was a few strands of tissue and ligaments connecting the arm. It swayed back and forth slightly as the steadied himself against the frame. Alan was amazed he had made it to the door just as fast as the woman across the hall. The man's face however, was by far the worst feature. The top half of his head looked well, at least as well as a fresh corpse could look. He had dark short hair and brown eyes. If you had only seen the top half of his head, you could guess he was in his early twenty's at most. The area around his eyes were red, as if he had just been crying when he came to the door. The rest of his head, was not so well. The man's jaw was completely missing. He had a bandage wrapped around his head that covered the area where his jaw should have been. The bandage was soaked through with blood, both old and new. The bandage did not cover the entirety of the damage however, as rips in his face reaching from ear to ear were visible as well as parts of his upper teeth. Alan was shocked into silence by the severity of this man's injuries despite everything that had just happened in the past few moments. "That's just George. He was one of the first to join Florence and I." Calvin said, interrupting the thoughts that raced through Alan's head. He had briefly forgotten Calvin was even at his side helping him up and realized he was staring at George. Alan forcefully averted his eyes. "He has Melinda." Was all that Alan could spit out. Alan didn't know why, but he felt especially affected by the realization of his words. He looked Calvin in his eyes and said, "We have to get her back before he hurts her further." "He has never taken anyone from inside the house before." Calvin said as he briefly gave Alan an almost accusing look. Alan realized that why he felt so bad, was because he realized that her taking was his fault. "He's inside now?" Came the voice of the pregnant woman still standing in her doorway. She had a strong accent that Alan recognized to be from New York. He could see tears welling in her eyes and her mouth began to droop slightly. "No, he's not going to get in here. Don't you worry, miss Davis. Everything is under control." Calvin said. The woman, looking not very convinced, stepped back into the room and closed her door. Alan looked back where George had been standing to find he had already went back in his room and closed the door. Alan was surprised at how fast and quietly the destroyed man could move. "How often do you guys go up there?" Alan said looking towards the attic. "I don't think any of us has been up there in many decades. Never had a reason. We don't store anything up there." Calvin explained as he began picking up the pieces of the destroyed hatch. "Not even for maintenance? After that many years, there's no way it couldn't need it." Alan said, surprised at the idea that the attic was that well kept despite no one doing any kind of work on it in decades. "Honestly, we don't really know how any of these walls have stayed standing." Calvin said as he moved more debris away from the middle of the hallway. "Right before I had that run in with that man, I was going to be replacing the front deck and it's awning. The wood was rotted through and we suspected it wouldn't last another six months." Florence was now with them and helping Calvin get the pieces of wood picked up and moved. Alan broke free of his stagnation, and started helping as well. "I was outside doing some prep work for the repairs when I saw the man in all black standing at the edge of the driveway. Didn't even see or hear him walk up. He looked very shady to me so I walked up to confront him." He said with a frown. "After I was killed, Granny Florence here came outside to help having seen what happened from the window." Calvin said as he gave Florence a glancing look of both sorrow and appreciation. "I unloaded two shells into the bastard. Didn't even slow him down." Florence said with a scowl on her face. "I woke up on the ground the next day as the daylight broke. I managed to push passed the pain and I pulled Florence into the house with me where she woke up soon after." Calvin said and then stood up straight after moving a long piece of the stair's frame to the far wall out of the way and, without turning around, said, "We have never once been outside to do any work on this house since that day and yet, here it stands. As if it's unable to die, just like us. Of all the strange things that he learned tonight, that was perhaps the most normal. As Calvin stood at the end of the hallway, Alan saw the window also at the end. "Why are these windows covered?" Alan asked as the last of the old wood was moved to the far end. Calvin shifted his stance slightly toward the window and then to Alan and said, "We think that was him. Anywhere direct sunlight can get in, there is some kind of black cloth blocking it out. The awning out front blocks most of the light from getting in. Maybe it has something to do with all of this, but no one is willing to try anything. We're all so paralyzed with fear... we never interfere with anything he does." Calvin clasped his hands tightly and his face was clearly that of frustrated anger. "You may not have the option of staying neutral much longer." Alan said glancing towards the hole in the ceiling. "And that, too, may be my fault." Alan's ticking clock was now ticking faster. He figured that the killer was not used to his prey staying in the house this long. Still, he wondered, why did the man stop at the attic hatch when he had Alan dead to rights? Why continue to bait him outside by taking Melinda? Alan bit his teeth in anger that turned to worry about what was being done to Melinda as Alan stood there helplessly hiding inside this deathtrap of a house. A cold hand touched Alan's shoulder. "We just have to get you to morning." Florence said. "Everything will be okay." It was clear that she was in denial. There was no way simply making it to sunlight would get Alan out of this. He had to deal with this here and now. "Thank you, Granny." Alan said with the best smile he could muster. This seemed to reassure her a bit. She then walked back downstairs. When she turned to walk away, Alan saw a large amount of blood seeping through her clothes in the back of her dress. This was why she winced when she stood up earlier. Alan pulled out his phone to look at the pictures of the bodies in the attic. There had to be some kind of clue he could use. "She means well." Calvin said. "We all do. But to be frank, I don't know what we're going to do." Alan didn't know what to say. Calvin gave him the look someone giving a terminal patient would give, clearly not knowing what to do or say, and then went back downstairs as well. Alan studied the pictures of the bodies in the attic and the markings that aligned with them. It appeared to Alan to be clearly some kind of ritual, but he had no experience with them whatsoever. He never had any interest in things like the occult and magic, instead, his attention was always down to earth and practical. Alan was not giving up on logic and reason however. If he could just understand more about this place, he could find a way out. The pictures were getting Alan nowhere. Nothing about them told him anything about what was going on or how to stop it. His only idea was that if he could disturb the bodies and the ritualistic markings, it may do something. Then again, it may not. Alan had to try something and couldn't wait. Just as he put his phone away, he jumped as he felt another cold hand on his shoulder. This time, from the direction of the door where George had shown himself. Spinning around, he saw George up close now. He still looked incredibly sad. Without saying a word, he seemed to beckon Alan into his room. George moved away from the door with a grace that shouldn't be possible for someone with such severe damage to their body. An intense smell of blood and rot came from the room. George had backed away further into the room, leaving the door ajar. The room was pitch black and Alan was afraid to enter, but he held hope that this might yield some kind of information. Alan hesitantly entered a step into the doorway with his hand on the doorknob. "George?" Alan called out as calmly as he could muster, but his voice betrayed him with clear signs of fear. He received no response, and hear nothing. The silent darkness was intensifying his fear to much greater heights. Alan had to push away his intense paranoid thoughts and focus. With great effort, Alan made two more steps into the darkness, leaving the safety of the open doorway. He was just about to call out again when he jumped at the sound of a match striking behind him in the corner behind the door. He quickly turned around to see George lighting an oil lantern that sat on a small square table up against the wall. Now, with dim light filling the room, Alan saw it was almost completely empty. George sat at the table and looked up at Alan. Behind George was a large bookcase full of books. At first, he thought that this was George's way of passing time, but then he saw the heaps of mold and dust that covered nearly every book as well as every part of the bookcase. Alan was now doubtful that any of those books had been read in a very long time. Aside from the bookcase and table with two chairs, the room was empty except for a pile of neatly placed empty bottles in the far corner from the table. From where Alan was, the bottles appeared to be clean with not a spec of dust on them. And of course, the one window was blocked from the outside. "Is there something you wanted to talk about?" Alan asked quietly. George made no attempt to speak and instead gestured with his eyes to the empty chair at his table. Alan reluctantly proceeded to sit down. The chair creaked loudly as he put his weight on it. In that moment, he realized the chair George sat in, made no sound whatsoever. Neither did Alan hear any movement when George had moved from the door to the table earlier. George stared at Alan with an intensely uncomfortable silence for several moments. Alan finally broke the silence, "What did you-" Alan was interrupted by George turning around in his chair and pulling a large book from the bookcase behind him with his working arm. Mold and dust feel from the case as he did so and Alan put his hand over his mouth to not breath it in. The book fell flat onto the table in front of George. The inscription on the book seemed to have been damaged passed the point of being legible whether by the decay of time, or repeated use. Alan wondered if George wanted him to read this. He hoped that was not the case because he had no time to read an old book in his current situation. George opened the cover of the book. The inside of the cover and the first page appeared to be blank. Alan thought George would turn to the next page, but instead, he began picking at the top corner of the cover's inside with his finger nail. With only one hand to work with, George was having trouble as he couldn't hold down the book at the same time. Alan reached forward to hold the book down. George looked up at Alan with a look in his eyes that seemed to convey thanks, but quickly his eyes began to fill with tears. Alan suddenly felt very awkward and George looked back at the book, hastening his attempts to peel back the inner covering of the book. After a few moments and some fallen tears, George had managed to tear back the inner covering. Behind it was something not part of the book. George pulled out some kind of page but it was very different. The first thing Alan noticed was it's leathery shape and color. It was the size of a page matching that of the large book, but It was also much thicker than any page of paper. George pulled the strange page from the book and looked away from it immediately. He then threw the page in front of Alan, as if disgusted by it. Now George was in a full blown cry with his head down. Alan took the hint and grabbed the page. He stood up and George began making loud sobbing noises through his destroyed mouth that gurgled as the sobs passed through what was likely blood. Alan quickly exited the room and back into the hall. The door immediately slammed after him, surprising Alan yet again with George's speed. Out in the hallway now, he heard George's crying through the room staying persistent. Alan felt nothing but pity and compassion for the man, but he couldn't think of anything he could possibly do for him. The page Alan had felt almost like leather, but had a very odd feel that made him almost nauseous just holding it. It was soft and moist, yet strong and had more weight to it than Alan would have expected for such an item. Alan finally realized what he was holding: skin. The realization of this made him almost drop it. His first thought was, "Why would he give me this?". Alan did not want to handle it any further but with little other choice, he had to know why it was given to him, and why George appeared to have it hidden away for who knows how long. After doing his best to silence his thoughts and force action, he held the skin page with both hands so he could get a better look. He saw what looked like red markings on the page but the light level was too low to really see it the way he needed. He was tempted to pull out his phone and use the light, but he was becoming increasingly aware of the battery usage and decided to only use it if he had no choice. With some level of disgust, Alan rolled up the skin as best he could and placed it in his back pocket. Oils from the page were all over his hands and he wished he could wash them. Instead, he settled for wiping them on his pants. He walked down the stairs and back to the den. The room was silent and very dark. The back room where Calvin was sitting still had it's light, but Calvin was not there. Florence was nowhere to be found either. Alan was tempted to call out, but was halted by the fear that the killer could hear him. Alan was on the fence as to whether he could enter the entire house, or just the attic at this point. Instead, Alan picked up the oil lantern from Calvin's table and proceeded into the darkness of the bottom floor. From the open room where Calvin was, Alan saw a door at the back beyond several other tables and a bar. Alan was not a drinker, but suddenly he felt like he could go for one. He approached the door at the back walking passed the bar and as he did so, he saw it was completely empty. His thoughts went back to George's room where he had seen the empty bottles. "If I had any, it would be yours." Alan said quietly to himself. As he reached the door, he found the words, "Staff Only" carved into the door that looked like it had been done not crudely and hastily, but with care and time. He hesitated for a moment, almost feeling like it would be wrong to go through here, but quickly silenced that thought with his conviction to find either Calvin or Florence. The door was unlocked and it opened easily. Alan half expected it to creek and whine, but instead, it's hinges appeared to be well kept and oiled. On the other side of the doorway was a hall that appeared to run length under where the stairs should be. More oil lanterns gave this hall just enough light to make it through without tripping and falling. More rooms littered this hall, but none of them appeared to be marked. At the far end, on the right side of the hallway, Alan saw a glow coming from an open door. Alan figured these were likely supply closets and staff living quarters. Alan proceeded down the hall toward the glow. The floor cracked and whined with almost every step. If he wanted the element of surprise, it would be impossible here. As he neared, he heard a soft giggle coming from the room. He stopped a few feet from the room and hesitated as the giggle sounded like it had come from a child. Alan's heart sank when he thought of the possibility that a child was trapped in all of this. "Eat your peas, sweetheart." came the sound of Florence's voice from the room. Alan began to sweat nervously as he forced himself forward, he didn't have a choice but to talk to Florence. With very heavy and slow steps, steeling himself as best he could, he reached the doorway. Inside, the light came from a lantern sitting on a dresser with a large mirror attached. Alan's blood ran cold when he saw Florence sitting with her back toward him at a small round table with a spoon in her hand. She was about to feed what looked like chunks of flesh from a bowl on the small table to the decapitated head of a child that was sown to the body of a large doll. Florence suddenly looked up and into the mirror on the dresser and locked eyes with Alan.