Halloween Monster Entries 2022
Here are the submissions for the 2022 Monster Contest! The theme this year was murder mystery.
The winner for this year is Mathollak with his entry titled: Murder Mystery at Chateau Drakenheart.
Kanna: The Tragic Tale of Aramanthe’s Children
Aramanthe was going to be the Queen of Rynvale. It was a statement that just had to be true if her mother, Countess Drakenheart, was saying it every day like her personal mantra. Even though they were members of the third highest ranking family, Aramanthe’s father had brought shame to the family name by wedding outside of his caste, and was ‘persuaded’ to relocate his family to the Chateau on the opposite end of the isle. Aramanthe was a beautiful high elf from the moment she was born, with hair the color of amaranth blossoms that nearly swept the floor when it was not pinned in the sophisticated hairstyles her mother would weave for her, and eyes that were said to be colored from drops of water that had fallen directly from Valaane. Even after her father passed during the Age of Warlords, Countess Drakenheart held fast to her wedded name and the idea that her daughter’s future marriage would see them welcomed back into high society with open arms.
Perhaps things would have been better if all had gone according to plan.
It was on the morning of Aramanthe Drakenheart’s coming of age ceremony that tragedy struck. The noblewoman and a servant disappeared, leaving Countess Drakenheart stricken with grief. All believed that Aramanthe and the servant ran away and eloped, with the former choosing to pursue magic amongst the lesser elves of Kelay-Sage. For nearly a century, Countess Drakenheart held fast to this idea, lamenting over the disappearance of her traitorous daughter to all fellow Drakenhearts and foreign visitors alike.
“The poor Countess, her only child abandoned her.”
“What an ungrateful girl, the Countess has no other family to return to; she should be ashamed.”
“She could have been the Queen of Rynvale, and she chose some lowly wood elf instead?”
“No one is ever going to love Aramanthe the way the Countess did…”
Servants would voice their condemnation of the noblewoman to the Countess to ease her aching heartbreak every time a reminder of the auburn-haired high elf was so much as hinted at. After all, Countess Drakenheart was the true victim in this. If a servant wanted to remain in Chateau Drakenheart and not be traded off to work in the neighboring City of Ogres, they had to believe this, and believe that there was no wailing coming from the central tower.
Exactly one hundred years to the day that Aramanthe Drakenheart disappeared, she would be found.
It was the servants who found Countess Drakenheart’s frail elderly body suspended from the rafters, hanging in front of the locked door that led to the central tower. Her body hung from a rope braided from what looked to be strands of deep ruby hair, and at her feet was the large brass key that never left her side.
As the Rynvalian Royal Guard described, what was inside that single, windowless room was horrific. There, lying on a rotten straw mattress, with a human skeleton in her embrace, was Aramanthe Drakenheart, emaciated and gray, but alive. All around Aramanthe’s dying body were dolls not unlike straw dolls, all fashioned from Aramanthe’s discarded and braided hair. When the Royal Guard moved to rescue the woman, which required them to push aside the dolls, Aramathe screeched out the only words that would be heard from her again.
“Get away from us!!”
The woven dolls all stood at their mother’s cry, and moved in unison towards the door, slamming it shut in their faces. It would take only minutes for them to break down the door, swords drawn, but when the heavy wooden door was thrust open again, Aramanthe was dead, and her ‘children’ had disappeared. What they had also failed to notice was that the noose around the deceased Countess’ neck had disappeared from the parcel used to contain the evidence of the crime.
Was the Countess murdered by her imprisoned daughter, even though her fragile body would have been too weak to rise from the floor? Did the Countess commit suicide because she feared what would happen if one of the former servants went to the authorities now that she was too elderly to properly be intimidating? The Countess' death was ruled as undetermined, and was buried beneath the field of amaranth flowers outside the chateau that she named her ill-fated daughter after. With no evidence of the dolls made of hair having ever existed, Aramanthe's "children" are believed to be a work of fiction; just a ficticious add-on made by those who wanted to make light of a tragic situation. After all, the official Royal Guard report was superceded to omit any details regarding the dolls. It was just a trick of the dim lighting, they said. There were no traces of magic found in the dungeon, not arcane, nor divine, nor necromantic.
Though the chateau has since been abandoned, with all servants fleeing to the safety of the neighboring cities, the sightings of Aramanthe and her children have not ceased. Pale eyes the color of stagnant water pools can be seen glaring through the darkness of the chateau’s walls, only to disappear moments later. Those who have tried to loot or explore the abandoned Chateau Drakenheart sometimes return with a single thread of amaranth-colored hair gently wrapped around their clothing, as though Aramanthe’s children have marked them as one of the co-conspirators to their mother’s captivity. Imminent death is said to come for those who see the dolls inside of one of the chateau’s empty rooms. Entering Chateau Drakenheart is a death sentence, though and through, for Aramanthe’s children will always seek revenge, whether you were involved or not.
Valrae: Fille de Sept Heures
It was cold when Amalia awoke in her bed. She didn't remember going to sleep. She felt thirsty. Her room was dark, the thick curtains pulled tight over the windows of the room. She could hear the soft plop of raindrops coming from outside. Behind her door an energetic tune played from the psaltery she knew would be in her father's entertaining room. This was exciting. It meant that a party was happening and there would be a room filled with too many perfumes and the wide crush of silk skirts all wreathed in spicy smoke and adult secrets.
Amalia knew where to go to not be seen. She took the servant's stairs. It was narrow and dark and filled with dust that usually tickled the inside of her nose. Her brothers door had been open. She’d been scared to pass it. Afraid he might have been waiting in the dark to catch her and tell father that she’d been spying again. But his room was dark and quiet when she passed it by.
When she entered the kitchen it was dark too. Nudge sat with her paws tucked neatly beneath herself and watched with twinkling amber eyes as Amalia entered. Nudge was a black and white spotted kitten she'd begged her father for earlier that winter. The kitten followed silent as a whisper as Amalia made her way through the dining room. This was harder.
She waited until the serving maid had finished cleaning whatever mess had been made of the floor from the dinner party. She knew from listening before that sometimes the adults would get loud and clumsy as the night went. Amalia hid until she’d finished and then crept into the empty dining room. She had to skirt around the walls and hide from the low light cast from the chandelier. When she finally made it to the doorway that separated her from the noise she hesitated. She moved slowly as she dared. Eventually, her eyes were beyond the door frame and the bright room swam into picture.
It wasn't what she'd expected. Usually, the psaltery sang out as the women danced. The men would surround her father with glasses full and fat cigars in hand. There was no dancing now. The psaltery's enchanted tune played over the sounds of weeping. The women were bright birds flocked together with bent necks and pale powdered faces that wrinkled as they wept. Or pretended too. The men were stone faced and arguing. Amalia knew they were arguing because their voices were urgent even as they whispered. The trouble seemed to be that her father's guards were refusing to allow anyone to leave. She learned this when one of the men tried to rush through them and was pushed roughly back toward the psaltery. It knocked sideways and the tune ended.
"If the murderer is still here we are not safe!" The man bellowed. The mustache hairs over his lips trembled. The real arguments began then. There were high pitched noises from the women. Some of the men tried to soothe them.
The distress of the room made Amalia's chest ache. She felt afraid. Like the time she'd gotten lost in the small stretch of forest at her uncle's home in Kelay.
No longer worried about being caught, Amalia entered the room with Nudge following behind her like a shadow. She called out for her father but the adults ignored her. They were too busy arguing. She tried tugging on the bright colored skirts of the woman near her. "Oh, get out of here!" The woman had pulled her skirts away and swatted toward her and Nudge as she hid her face behind a pearl white kerchief. It was like this with most of the adults she approached. They swatted her away, more concerned with the kitten pawing at fine clothes than the child who was now weeping and crying for her father.
The guards must have been too busy pushing back the crowd to notice when Amalia and Nudge wiggled through them.
She found her father in his office. He was bent over in a chair weeping. His hands were wet with blood. The keening sobs were unlike anything she’d heard before and Amalia felt sad. So sad she felt like she could fall down through the floor. There was a stern looking man she’d never seen before trying to speak to him. He was asking her father questions but he wasn’t answering. Her brother was there too, covered in dirt and dark stains. He looked angry and it frightened her. As angry as he had been when she’d stolen one of his wooden horses and broke its leg in an accident trying to make it jump over her toy chest. None of them seemed to notice her and she was too afraid of being caught to announce herself. Couldn’t they hear her crying? Nudge mewled beside her. Her father stopped then. He looked toward her but only shook his head. Was he mad at her? Amalia sank to the floor and wailed and wailed.
When she opened her eyes she was alone. It was very dark. There was a small light coming from a lantern hung high on the wall. A spider's web danced in the cold air beside it and the fat black spider that made it clung tightly to the delicate weave. She could hear the voices high above her now.
Amalia crawled through the dark. She knew where she was now but she didn’t know how she’d gotten there. She wasn’t allowed in the cellar. Her father had said that it was for servants and not children. It was dark and damp and full of spiders and other things that crawled and Amalia hadn’t needed much convincing at all because she was afraid of the dark.
She was close to the stairs now though. She could see the light slanting over them from the opened door above them. There was something nearby. It was wrapped in white cloth and not very large. Amalia could feel her lip tremble as she attempted to make the shape out of the shadows. She was close enough to touch it now but she didn’t need to. She could see a small hand. It was pale and she knew it would be cold too. The small fingers were curled around a wooden horse. She didn’t need to see more to know its back leg would be broken.
Amalia never left the chateau. Even when her brother and her father moved away. They left Nudge behind. Her dark face had grown pale with age but the cat was never far from Amalia as she ran through the halls.
Other noble families came and went weeping. They would spin fantastical stories of a pale elvin girl laughing through the walls. A specter that seemed harmless until she took their children. Lured to their death was the claim.
Amalia lost her name. She became a phantom who ate children.
She became a legend that mothers and older siblings would tell curious and wide eyed children that wandered awake past bedtime. Amalia became a tall and wafish monster with clawed hands and a horrific face. Her hair was dirty and tangled and she clutched a black bag as she stalked through the night looking for wayward children to stuff inside and drag back to the abandoned manor for a meal. A dark shape shifting beast that sometimes appeared in these legends as an ambered eyed panther. This was the harbinger of her presence.
They gave her a new name, Fille de Sept Heures, and claimed her the sole heir of Chateau Draken Heart.
Ernest: Crime Mop
"Well, detective? What's the situation?"
"Chief, I don't have any idea what happened here. This is the cleanest crime scene I've ever come across. The body was clearly beaten to death, but there's no signs of any struggle. You'd think there would be blood stains on the floor from those injuries--or even on his clothes!--but I can't find any trace of a trail. There aren't any bootprints in the mud outside--not even from him, and we have a witness saying he came home last night in the rain! There's no weapon, there's no anything!"
"A killer that leaves no trace? We're clearly dealing with a professional here. Get in touch with your contact in the assassin's guild. I need to know who this guy knew." "That's just it, Chief--all his neighbors say he was an ordinary, average citizen. Not a hint of suspicious behavior. If he's got underworld connections, they're buried deep and not at all local." "Still! You can't tell me a man was murdered by someone this tidy for no reason. Chalk his outline and get him out of here."
As the officers of the law left the building and closed the door, leaving the room in total isolation, something stirred. Appendages of yarn bound together with a tailband stretched and shivered, beginning to crawl across the floor in waves like the multitudinous limbs of a millipede. A long, thin handle lifted straight into the air, bobbing side to side with the motion of the crawling head beneath it, until it stood before the chalk outline left on the floor. How filthy. No, no, no, that wouldn't do at all.
The mop returned to where it had been leaned against the wall and lifted the water bucket that had been left beside it, bringing it to the side of the chalk outline. Next, it crawled across the floor to the bathroom, locating a bar of soap and rubbing it all over its fibrous tendrils. Finally, returning to the scene of the crime, it leaped into and out of the water bucket before sashaying all across the chalk outline, dancing back and forth until nothing remained of the body's position. It wrung itself out into the bucket, did one more once-over across the floor to spotlessly dry its cleaning, and then carried the bucket to the window, crawling up the wall and lifting the bucket behind it to toss its contents surreptitiously out the window.
The house was spotless, as it had always been destined to be. No more would messy old Benjamin track mud into the hall or leave his dishes on the table. Beating him to death, as it turned out, was the cleanest thing the mop had ever done. Now, it pondered, what other houses needed a cleaning to die for?
Quintessa: The Children of Perdere
Nestled within the heart of the Dragonlands is the once sprawling Chateau Drakenheart. While the name is synonymous with the infamous Lich Queen Ryeanna Drakenheart, there were several others within her family that bore her surname. Most were noblemen worthy of being in the presence of the Royal Courts of Rynvale or Vhys, but other members of the family were better suited to ‘extended vacations’ in the countryside. No one knows what Adeline and Emmeline Drakenheart did to warrant being sent away to the chateau, but the news of it amongst the castes that thrive on gossip only lasted as long as it took for the next scandal to come rolling in. Perhaps the troublesome twins threatened someone of a higher status, or tried to harm the beloved family pet in an attempt to recreate Ryeanna’s necromantic feats. With each iteration of this tale’s telling, the reason changes and ultimately becomes insignificant because it far dwarfs the crime they were yet to commit.
As children, Adeline and Emmeline were inseparable and moved in perfect synchronization with one another. With only each other to keep the boredom away, the two would take turns harassing the maids and the groundskeepers of the chateau, and traveling to the forbidden Dragonlands to watch the mad dragons perform their primitive rituals. It was during one of these ventures that the two saw the Dragon of the Dark and the Dragon of the Light. Despite their bodies being identical to one another, and despite their hunting and killing as a pair being as though it was a single creature doing the movement, one would always be cursed to be the bearer of darkness, and one would always be blinded by lights. In some tales, it was Emmeline who called out to the dragons. In others, it was Adeline. But in every iteration, only one high elf called out to the dragons, and in that moment, their synchronization was shattered. Startled by the presence of a mortal they had not sensed was in their domain, the two dragons crashed into one another, impaling one another with their horns and falling into a lifeless heap. Terrified of what they had caused, the Drakenheart twins ran back to the chateau, and would never set foot outside of its walls again. It was a terrible omen of what was to come.
Each twin blamed the other for what they had witnessed, and subsequently isolated themselves to one side of the chateau. The bond they had shared had been severed, and the rift between them only worsened with time. The next ten years would be spent in self-study, with Adeline learning the necromantic arts, and Emmeline learning the healing arts.
It was the arrival of Faustus Drakenheart that heralded the beginning of the end. He was a Drakenheart in name alone, the first son of a woman who would marry into the family, and was sent to stay in the chateau for the summer for his mother did not trust the troublesome man to remain completely unsupervised, nor in such close proximity to the city. Faustus observed how the twins distanced themselves from one another, and how the servants were forbidden from uttering the other's name in their presence, and decided to use this opportunity for selfish gain.
Every day, he would spend his mornings with Adeline in the library, praising her necromantic studies and learning the ins and outs of poisons, and every evening, he would spend with Emmaline in the gardens. Despite knowing he would be called back to Rynvale when his mother returned with her new husband at the end of summer, he convinced the confined twins that they had taken his heart, and in return, they gave him theirs. Both women fell with child, blissfully unaware of Faustus’ infidelity.
Even now, the servants that escaped with their lives wonder what went wrong and lament at how the tragedy could have been prevented. On the morning that Lady Drakenheart was to visit the chateau to collect her son, she was presented with a grisly scene that would cause her to pass from the shock not even three nights later. The Drakenheart twins lay in the foyer, with Emmeline’s left hand intertwined with Adeline’s right hand together for the first and final time in a decade. Their stomachs had been torn asunder, their children missing from their corpses, and Faustus was nowhere to be found. His belongings remained untouched, and all the doors and windows had remained locked by the servants the night before. In the guest house where Faustus resided, which had remained locked from the outside as per the Lady’s request, the only trace that something was wrong was the bloodsoaked bed.
No one knows whether Faustus killed the Drakenheart twins and died while trying to escape to the neighboring cities without being seen, or whether the Drakenheart twins had killed themselves after turning their scorned love on Faustus. There was no explanation anyone could think of as to why the children were torn from their mothers, or why sigils no one could decipher had been carved into the womans’ hands. The servants could only stand to stay in the gruesome chateau for one more night before all Drakenhearts would abandon it completely. In the twin moonlights of Ahr’Nuk and Valaane spilling through the large paned windows, tiny footprints appeared in the dried blood, and all could hear the malicious laughter calling for their father to come out from hiding. That’s why they say that the only residents of Chateau Drakenheart now are those who wish to visit the Children of Perdere.
Mathollak: Murder Mystery at Chateau Drakenheart
I don’t know how I got a reputation as an exorcist, but I’ll do it. That kind of money? I’ll do most things. So I bought the shabbiest tricorn hat I could find and found an old duster. ‘Vintage’ I say about it. I’d stick out in Vhys, probably, but that was inevitable.
I took the boat, cruising in a luxury liner. I can afford it and I deserve to treat myself for being so brave about the whole things. Brave and helpful. Cenril to Rynvale, Rynvale to Vhys. A lot of time to read up on ghosts and things, and I take advantage. I learn a few things, but mainly I trust the knife I bring with me. Jade from a haunted mine that cuts things that normally can’t be touched by ‘real’ things. I never tried it of course, but it never came up.
I’m early for the meet-up which is unlike me. But it was at the same inn I was staying at, in the pub downstairs. “What can you tell me about that old chateau?” I ask the guys helping me pass the time.
“Renovations started up months ago but haven’t gotten very far. Money’s dried up after some bad investments.”
“No I heard from my brother the workers all went on strike due to poor conditions.”
“A curse. Anybody who sets foot in there dies in a freak accident.”
So nobody knew anything.
A skinny, uptight guy with brown pants and a green coat, with those goofy shoulder things. Epaulets? Comes up to me. “Are you the exorcist inquired to cleanse Chateau Drakenheart?” Like he can’t see my hat and coat and general demeanor (I’ve been trying seem like I’d seen some things).
“I take it you’re not the boss,” I say dismissively, without even looking at him. I’ve seen too much to look at more things. Exorcists mainly brood. So we go to the boss’s office, not too far away. I keep quiet, even sulk. Part of it’s because that’s what an exorcist would do, but it’s a little bit because the guy is such a dweeb. I can tell when people are boring, with a look.
Boss has a nice office. As many expensive baubles as he could fit without making it tacky. The coolest thing is this big long sword he’s got on a plaque, hanging behind where he sits. One edge and a serious curve. Cavalry man, this guy is. Decorated too, they don’t give bedazzled swords like that to just anyone. Mithril even? I think it was.
I could take him.
“Tell me about the problem,” I say like I’m a guy who solves problems instead of making them.
He hates me right away, I know it. I don’t think it was personal or because I’m a human, either. I think he would hate anyone he has to answer to, anyone he has to wait on, anyone he needs help from.
“You may know the chateau,” he says, like it was a test. If I didn’t know, I was definitely less than. Already looking down his nose at me. Elves, right? He’s only half turned to me, sitting on one of those chairs that spins and wearing pants so tight I can know way more than I should. Maybe on someone else it would be cool but on him? He’s got the epaulets too, and I can see the cufflink on his wrist glinting. A little dragon made of some crystal thing. I’m immediately envious and I grab this globe made of amber off his desk just to give myself something better to look at.
“I know a little about the chateau,” I say, remembering the talk in the bar in which I learned nothing. There’s a pixie inside the amber, looks like she’s sleeping.
“Put that back please,” he says with an annoyed sigh. I do put it back after very obviously thinking about not putting it back. He was giving me a lot of money. “Chateau Drakenheart is mine now, through an inheritance. But it needs to be rehabilitated, it’s completely uninhabitable. It was even before the poltergeist, but now people are dying. Two of my men. The rest refuse to step inside and now no work is getting done, and I’ve waited long enough as it is.” He takes a breath. “You can kill the ghost for me?”
I have no idea. Maybe? “What can you tell me about this ghost? You inherited the place. So you must know who lived there before.”
He narrows his eyes, his patience winnowing. A simple yes was the only answer he could tolerate. “An aunt lived there, stubbornly refusing to leave even though it was always much too big for her to take care of. She clung to it when she was alive too.” He hmphs and shakes his head. Clearly no love lost.
“No kids to pass it on to?”
“What do you think?”
“Where was she seen?”
“I don’t know that, the only people who saw her are dead.”
“Any idea what she wants? A lot of times, they’ll move on if they can wrap up whatever it was th-”
“I don’t know and I don’t care! Can you get rid of her?”
“I believe I can. I’ll need half the money up front.” I say it like it’s a punishment for being rude to me. I still can’t believe he agreed to that. Actually, knowing how desperate he was, I bet I could’ve asked for more.
“Fine. I’ll need it done quickly,” he says, plopping down a bag of money that must’ve dented his desk. I play it cool. It was nothing to him. “You’ll do it tonight?”
“Tomorrow,” I correct him. “And I’ll need blueprints. No guarantees either.. Without knowing more about this lady, I can only do what’s possible. So.”
He frowns. “Okay, I understand.” He hands me the blueprints, sliding out a roll of papers from the drawer in front of him.
“This place is huge. So many rooms,” I say as I unroll the documents, and he knows it’ll take longer than a day.
“Yes…actually,” he says, like a thought just occurred to him. “Try the mezzanine. East wing. That’s where the men were supposed to be working it just…isn’t where they were found.”
“Okay! The mezzanine.” We shake on our deal, and I notice something beautiful on his wrist. “Looks like you’re missing a cufflink, huh? Too bad.”
I go back to my room. I’m pretty sure I’m just going to go home in the morning, I was out of my element and I was just given free money by a jerk. Help him? Nah. But as I soothe the bruise beaten into my thigh by his bag of money, I realize how curious I am about the whole thing. I felt a little bit like a hitman, which is fine, but normally people like him would be the target. And I was already sympathetic to his aunt for having to know him.
But it’s not my problem if people don’t finish their business while they’re alive.
I study the blueprints more closely on the carriage ride over the next morning. If he didn’t tell me about the mezzanine I would’ve quit immediately. I don’t care how much money it was, I wasn’t going to walk in and out of moldy rooms for ten hours.
I walk past a tent city made for the workers who aren’t working, past some discarded tools, and let myself into the open door. This place was a shambles. “Man’s got vision, I’ll give him that,” I say to myself. I almost leave. The vibes are so bad, but it could be in my head, I don’t know. I can tell when someone hates me. I can feel it. But this place almost made me sick. The fireplace is nice though. Or it could be. There’s so much ash and dust a cloud springs up from the carpet near it. There’s a little bunny doll with a half burnt up ear near it. It was nice once, I realize as I pick it up. A trophy for me.
“Ding-dong, Daddy’s home!” I yell out to the ghost as I start walking up the stairs. Ghosts hate the living, sometimes just for being alive. Maybe she’d come to me.
I get up to the mezzanine and face the east corridor. I look down at all the doors and get my dagger unsheathed.
Actually, this is where I get a little scared. Because what if it didn’t work? At least it was pretty I think, as I look down at it. Carved from a single piece of jade, smooth as silk. I like the weight of it, too.
“Alright lady! Time’s up!” I holler down the hall. Not all ghosts hate everyone, but they all hate their anguish being mocked. “You’ve lived here long enough and it’s time to move on. Stupid as he is, your nephew’s got some good ideas about this place. It’s in good hands.”
I take a few more steps down the hall and I freeze. There she is, just pacing on the moldy old carpet like it was normal. Like she was always there. A woman of some venerable age wearing a nightgown, I think. But she’s all white, white as snow. And I can see through her a little bit. Still, I know she’s pretty from here. I freeze. I take a deep breath. I take one more step.
The floor creaks and we both know what a big mistake I made. The sweet old elf sees me, and all vision of her as a person vanishes as she flares out with mad power. Her hair flies out in every direction, her mouth widens into a shredding maw of a million billion needles. She flies right at me!
I take one step back, I wanted to run but she was too fast. She flings her meat hook claws at me like a maniac and I swing my knife like a desperate rookie, falling backwards and I’m sure I’m dead. But I got her.
I cut ribbons of glowing goop out of her arm that cling to the knife like mucus and she wails. Her agonized screams echo through the halls as she flies back from where she came. I note the door she flies through as I get to my feet. “Not used to someone fighting back are ya!”
Obviously, I follow her. It’s in the bedroom, I know from the blueprints. But when I go inside? Nothing but the smell of rotted wood and debris.
So I’m looking around, and her room is a mess. Turned completely upside down. You know how rich people like their things in its place and symmetrical and neat? The bed was pushed at a weird angle, broken glass on the ground from a mirror, area rug half curled up the dresser. Who does that? Angry, temper tantrum having ghosts, I guess.
As long as she’s not here, what else can I do? I snoop. I find the frame of a big painting laying flat on the ground and tilt it up. I was right, she was pretty. But then my mind is blown. “What? No. What?” It’s a portrait of her. And two kids, probably around 8. Her nephew got ugly when he grew up, that’s for sure.
I think she hears my thought, because then she comes flying out of the ground, right out from where I’m standing. Quick as a cat, I jump out of the way. She comes again. Each step I take back, she swings at me with her horrid claws, nearly missing each time until I trip on a bunched up part of the rug and slam right through the rotting floor. No time to sheath the dagger, I drop it as I cling to some splintered planks and I can hear it shatter. Before I thought I was dead? Now I know I am.
She comes out of nowhere, wailing at me with her ear-splitting screech and I can feel my brain getting ready to explode. I truly would’ve died if I didn’t let go to cover my ears with my hands. I fell into that hole and disappeared.
I must’ve landed on two inches of dust and I don’t know where she is now. So I spark up a torch to cover up the darkness. It’s an empty room, stone floor, stone walls. But this dust is not dust. It’s ash. “This wasn’t in the blueprints,” I say. “Why wasn’t this in the blueprints.” The fragments of my knife are under me, but something else catches my eye. Something glinting in the torchlight. I find the tiny thing and pick it up. A tiny crystalline dragon. “Ah! I’m an idiot. Of course you killed her,” I say remembering his missing cufflink. “Mine now, stupid, and I’m gonna haunt this place way harder than she is.”
I’m looking for a good place to die, thinking of what pose I should take. It would have to be a corner, so they don’t see me when they look down that hole. So I find one. A dark little corner to sit and die in. But I can’t go there, because it’s already taken! Taken! Taken by these two tiny little skeletons, huddling together, there tiny bony arms wrapped around each other, legs tucked in to their bodies. “No,” I say. “Kids? No, come on. For a house?”
Then she’s there, and it’s too late for mercy. Now I know. She couldn’t protect them in life but she’ll protect them forever now. She wails again, that awful sound, but I shout over her. “Wait!” I scream as I fumble in my pockets. She doesn’t stop. She might not even hear me. “Wait!” I shove the doll in her face and she changes back to a woman, entranced by it. Very slowly, I lower the bunny down, down, down, until it rests in the arms of her babies.
The next morning I’m all cleaned up, mostly, waiting for the guy to come by his new house. “Is it done?” He asks me.
“Would you like to see for yourself?”
We go up the stairs, toward her bedroom, and I open the door myself. He hesitates. “Don’t worry!” I tell him. “It’s safe! I followed her in here, down into this secret room behind the fireplace. It took me so long to figure that out, too.” I waited for him to catch up. “But I can see why you left it off the blueprints. This is yours right?” I held out his missing cufflink in my hand. I wasn’t smiling anymore, and neither was he. His face grew pallid, as I threw his missing link into the hole.
It clinked onto the hard stone floor, and we both heard wheezing breaths rising from the hole in the floor. “No,” he says. He tries to go through me to the door, but I push him back and close the door behind me.
I hear two people scream and then? Nothing. I decide to go get the rest of my money, because I know I put the spirit to rest, just like I said I would.
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