The House of Thirteen Doors Part 4
by Daniel XIII
MEPHISTO WALTZES ON A CURSED NIGHT MOST VILE
“You really should refrain from walking the grounds in such…dour conditions.” 5 said, dismounting the hell spawned cycle and extending his hand to Joanna, all in that fluid style that served to compound his unearthliness. They had returned to the House, its twin lions looking on in stoic vigilance. Joanna’s mind was primed to explode with a thousand queries. “What the hell is wrong with Katze, how can she even be alive?” she spat. “Whatever do you mean?” he responded, an air of confusion in his mannered tone. Joanna accepted the assist, and pulling herself from the back of that metallic creature, came to stand face to face with 5. “Her face…it’s non-existent!” she said, her voice rising slightly in desperation.
“Joanna, I feel that I erred on the part of caution a bit too harshly. I am no physician, and I may have sedated you a bit too strongly. My servants, while a bit outré, do indeed possess faces like you or I!” 5 said, his expression never changing. “But I saw her without her mask! Her head was a skull, and don’t even get me started on that tongue of hers! She was a ghost, then she changed to Katze, I saw her
beyond that excavated graveyard!” Joanna raved. “Ghosts, skulls…an exhumed cemetery? My dear, you really should lie down, I’m afraid your losing your grip on sanity!” he exclaimed with a musical laugh.
“But..but I saw her, I saw her!” Joanna was edging towards hysteria. “Dearest, you were quite alone when I found you. In fact, it was dear Katze herself that alerted me to your journey beyond the mansion! In fact, here she is now!” and with that, he gestured in the direction of the majestic red feline lords upon their marble pedestals. There stood Katze, her face, while masked and strange, was definitely in place.
“Come, let Katze take you to your room. You need to rest in order to be fresh for my grande danse this evening!” The servant lumbered forward and put an inhuman arm around her shoulders. Joanna reacted violently, shrugging the helping hand free with excessive force. Katze just cocked her head to the side, seemingly uncomprehending the emotional outburst.
“I..I’m sorry Katze. I’ll make my own way back to my room, thank you.” Joanna said sheepishly. The servant merely stood silent. Joanna spun, towards 5, her tongue loaded with more accusations of supernatural deviltry, but once again, the enigma had vanished. With a heavy sigh, Joanna entered the mansion and made her way dejectedly through the familiar sequence of rooms, halls and stairs back to her chambers. A new tray with a red glass water pitcher, fresh fruit and cheese awaited her return. She poured cool water from the pitcher into a matching red glass, and drank deeply. Setting the cup down, she stripped from her dress and shawl, and removed her dirty leather sandals. Crawling towards the bed, she began to decompress, when a thought came to her. Katze had grown a head taller.
Making her way to the sumptuous bed, Joanna fell upon its satin surface like a dry leaf falling upon the autumn grass. “I knew it; I’m not high or crazy. This place is bad news!” she thought, and while she couldn’t explain just what was going on, she knew she had to get far away from here and fast. As plans of an escape from this dire mansion began to dance in her mind, she felt a strange sensation against her scalp. Her skin tingled from multiple, rapid taps, as if from a multitude of miniature foot falls. Without hesitation she began furiously brushing her milk white fingers thru her crimson tresses. Suddenly a dark shape appeared on the ivory satin that surrounded her. It took a fraction of a second for a glimmer of recognition to come to her. Before her sat a fat, shiny, black cricket, like the ones that had been expelled from Katze’s accursed throat. As if by reflex, she raised a hand to crush the repulsive creature, but before she could strike, the insect stopped her dead in her tracks by performing one simple action. The cricket rubbed its legs together, but instead of the familiar chirping that would usually result, instead came a demonic voice which spoke one simple word. “Jo..ann..a.”
Joanna could take no more. The only reaction her body could afford her was to faint dead away, although sweet oblivion offered her little in the way of a reprieve from the asylum that the mansion had
become. Sleep had enrobed her in soft, warm comfort for mere seconds before she was awakened by a musty odor that made her rise with a gagging start.
Her room was blanketed in inky darkness save for the pale moon glow that streamed through the window ; though she was sure no time had passed at all since unconsciousness had claimed her. Joanna made to sit up but realized she was restrained by hands that held her fast to the surface of the bed. As her pupils strained to become accustomed to the unexpected inky hue that enveloped the chamber, she could see the familiar ears of the Sisters of Lagomorpha, bobbing to and fro in the blackness.
Occasionally she could feel the stiff fibers of their whiskers brush against her breasts, or their sweat slicked thighs rub against her legs. She exploded in a furious panic. Straining against her captors, Joanna managed to free her left hand. With a speed and strength that beguiled her slight frame, she struck a glancing blow against the rabbit headed supplicant that restrained her right arm. The being reeled back, seemingly from disbelief that this delicate, porcelain creature could muster the wherewithal to lash out.
Before her sisters could act, Joanna’s fingers sunk into the matted fur of the mask of her victim. She tugged against the disguise with such fervor, that the stitching could not resist. With an ear shattering rip the façade gave way to reveal the being’s true face. The moonlight that streamed in through the window played across the woman’s profile, a profile that she knew intimately as her own. Joanna let out a loud, audible gasp as she sat face to face with herself. Mirror Joanna smiled, slid forward and placed her lips against Joanna’s ear. Her opposite number’s breath sent tingling electricity throughout the length of her body as she spoke a simple phrase; “Beautiful and ugly are not always as they seem, my dear.” As she finished speaking she ran her hot, moist tongue around the contours of Joanna’s ear.
Joanna sprang awake with a lung shattering gasp. Her chamber was now bathed a more reasonable golden hue. The late afternoon sun danced through the room. As her eyes grew accustomed to the soft focus blur of the autumnal solar rays, she took notice of a rhythmic pattern that filled the bedroom in ever- increasing decibels. The familiarity of this audio interloper came to her in a wave of shivering goose flesh. This was the same hollow plastic footsteps she had heard just one evening prior in the great dining hall!
What horror had the twisted mansion now saw fit to vomit forth? Just when the footsteps had reached an almost deafening crescendo they came to a complete stop. Joanna quickly surmised the silence was worse, but it was to be very short lived. The door creaked slowly open, but only a fraction of an inch. With an aperture of that size, it was impossible to see who it was that desired to trespass. “Who’s there?” Joanna squeaked.
Slowly around the open edge of the door a hand crept into view. Long, slender fingers, stiff and fused slid further into the room. The hand glistened sickeningly in the diffused sunlight, its hot pink surface flecked with thousands of reflective specks. Joanna began to walk slowly backwards towards the great bed. Behind her a gentle sliding of wood on wood rang out. “My god..” she thought, “someone’s at the window!” she spun one hundred and eighty degrees only to be rewarded with the sight of another set of
artificial digits entering the sanctity of her bed chamber, and even worse, the rest of the figure was visible!
In mere seconds, Joanna drank in the delirious sight of the creature as it stiffly brought itself to a crouch upon her window sill. The being was featureless, impossibly long, and maddeningly plastic. It’s entire, naked body was an unnatural hot pink hue, which glittered breathtakingly in the solar rays. Joanna sensed that the being was female, but the body was smooth and without detail save for two bumps that would serve as the creature’s breasts. The intruder’s head was absent of a face, and this is what unnerved Joanna the most. How did it breathe without a mouth or nose, and how did it see sans eyes. The mannequin hopped down from its perch, and began moving towards her stiffly, yet quickly. Joanna turned back around only to find herself staring directly into the faceless visage of the creature from the doorway.
The window mannequin was now close enough to ensnare her in its cold, hard grasp. Plastic arms wrapped around her chest and stomach, in the process restraining her arms. The doorway mannequin held up a handkerchief of lavender satin and pressed it to Joanna’s mouth and nose. Her world went black.
Joanna’s eyes were shuttered tight by lids that felt as if they were made of concrete. As she began the Sisyphean challenge of prying them open, she was struck with an agonizing stabbing sensation, as if her arms were being wrenched from their sockets. Although the pain was near unbearable, she couldn’t move her arms.
Finally, her eyes cooperated, providing her with a view of her new surroundings. The space she occupied seemed vast, and was illuminated by multicolored light that emanated somewhere behind her. As brilliant as the illumination was, it still did could not, or refused to, reach the far edges of the chamber. Turning her head to the left, Joanna saw that her arm was bound by thick leather straps to what appeared to be a cross beam constructed of large television sets, their individual screens each displaying a different color of the rainbow and a unique digital symbol, brilliant white in hue (or lack thereof).
Due to the placement of her arm, the identity of each symbol was a mystery. Turning her head to the right revealed a similar fate for her other appendage. Joanna squirmed in place, but her chest, waist and feet were similarly fastened to what she quickly realized was a picture tube crucifix. The heat from the cathode rays was beginning to make her sweat where her naked flesh (for besides the leather straps, she was completely without garments) pressed against the multitude of screens, which numbered twelve in total.
With a thundering crash, two large doors swung open at the far end of the room. Backlit by flickering, hypnotic candlelight, twelve couples entered the chamber. They appeared, if their silhouettes were to be trusted, to be dressed in arraignment suitable for a grand ball, although any other clues to their identity were obscured by darkness and shifting flame. Each successive coupling filed to the opposing
direction of the last, and when they were done, the doors slammed closed with the same dramatic pomposity, leaving the room silent save for the low hum emanating from her electric crucifix.
“Now that all are gathered, shall we begin?” purred the familiar voice of 5 from the screen directly behind her head. Turning her head as far back as she could, Joanna was greeted with 5’s face, filling the screen with his smirking countenance. Digital 5 turned his head upon the screen until he was staring directly at Joanna and gently blew a kiss in the direction of her flushed cheek. With that, the strains of a violin began to fill the chamber as multiple candles flickered to life.
Vague shadowy figures could be seen moving in time with the music as the lights became more numerous. On and on the music swirled, tuned to agonizing perfection. The beings danced their accursed waltz around and around the cross that served double duty as the room’s centerpiece and Joanna’s prison.
The warm orange glow now revealed more of the dancers that glided rhythmically to and fro about the ballroom. The “female” participants in the spectacle were of the same construction as those creatures that had so recently menaced Joanna in her quarters, their garish pink plastic arms and heads poking out from ivory ball gowns. Their featureless faces were each adorned with a different sign of the zodiac painted upon their foreheads.
The ladies were outré, but the gentlemen surely were beyond insanity. Dressed in their Victorian finery, with visages constructed only of bone with the occasional trace of withered flesh, they moved with a spryness that beguiled their obvious decay. Joanna filled with dread as she realized these must be the former occupants of the empty graves littering the mansion’s grounds. The death masques all peered up at her as they spun by, empty sockets drinking in her lithe frame, as voicelessly they laughed at her helpless predicament. And as it seemed the figures could barely revolve any faster in their fevered gliding, the music stopped and the figures came to a dead halt.
Neither mannequin nor skeleton made a single movement, nor uttered a solitary sound. Directly behind her Joanna could hear someone approaching on gentle footfalls. That is when 5 slid into her view, an ebony violin with deep crimson strings clutched in his right hand, a matching bow in his left. “Ah, my dearest, so good of you to join us for The Crimson Cotillion” he intoned, a cat like grin spread across his angelic face.
He was dressed in an impossibly black leather outfit, punctuated by inverted silver crosses that bobbed and swayed with his footsteps. Around his shoulders, hung a black cape following him like a subservient lover. His silken ivory hair was held back by a satin ribbon that danced playfully in the air as he came round front of the crucifix. “You bastard…” Joanna spat, “why…” 5 silenced her by simply placing a single ivory finger upon his cupid bow lips. The motion of his hand to his mouth was swift and preternaturally graceful as always, but it wasn’t his action that stopped her dead in her tracks, but his eyes.
Free of their omnipresent mirrored prison they shone and sparkled in the flickering light that filled the room with an amber brilliance unparalleled, but it was the pupils that were the real showstopper. Where human eyes are filled with dazzling circles of blue or hazel, 5’s were midnight hued rectangles akin to that of a goat.
“Why indeed my love, why indeed?” 5 intoned, holding out his violin to someone or something unknown directly behind the cross. With a hollow tapping, another mannequin, this one electric blue approached 5, and received his proffered instrument. This being was dressed in a ball gown similar to her sisters, but in place of a bone white symbol on her blank countenance, she bore a brilliant pink pentagram. He nodded his appreciation. “You see, Joanna, my sweet, you are the living embodiment of my greatest failure, and I so hate to fail.”
He began pacing left and right, but truth be told, it resembled nothing more than the moves a panther getting ready to pounce upon its prey and paint it’s magnificent ivory fangs scarlet. “I believe you should, at the very least, hear something in the way of an explanation on how you found yourself to be hanging in my grand ballroom.” he cooed sweetly.
“Dropping all pretense and charade, you shall see the machinations of nigh two hundred years spread before you, and you will learn of your special place in this karmic fandango. Then I shall rip out your essence and shove it into two corpses and finally put an end to a job that, quite frankly, has become a colossal pain in my ass.” And with that, 5 dropped to the floor, crossed his legs and began the telling of a tale most dire.
“Once upon a time,” he began his story, the candle’s flame dancing across his rectangular pupils like sunlight upon an inky lake, “a woman, subjected as she was to the terrible aching of a broken heart by the whims of the capricious sea, sat ever vigilant on her widow’s watch, tears falling endlessly to the churning, angry water below. How she prayed they’d act as a beacon to return her beloved to her arms, where she’d embrace him with such ferocity and for such duration that time itself would cease to exist, and the roar of heaven’s thunder would be dwarfed by the beating of their hearts in perfect unison. But, alas such fanciful, delicate illusions seem destined to shatter when struck by the iron fist that we call reality.”
“On and on, for countless days she sat, until finally, and almost involuntarily, she swore that she would pay any price just to have that which she desired most, a chance to say goodbye.” 5 shook his head gently at the thought, the fine silver strands of his hair shifting slightly at his back, mimicking an arctic waterfall over a landscape carved of ebony midnight. “Still comfy up there darling?” he teased, and without awaiting a response, the yarn continued.
“From the moment our heroine stepped across the threshold of the Order of the Thirteen Gentlemen, destiny frowned upon us all. In the interest of brevity, I will merely offer that she received her heart’s
desire, but an unforeseen string was attached. That day the sum of thirteen minus twelve was 5, as I was the only soul to exit those chambers. Unfortunately for all gathered here today, a wounded pride is something I just cannot accept. So, for the next century, I licked my wounds, and occupied my mind and fortune with the creation of my greatest glamour to date, The Frankenstein Conundrum.”
“And while my first attempts at such resurrections proved a bit…” 5 bit his lip in frustration as his eyes fell upon the participants of The Crimson Cotillion, “bothersome…now I possess the final equation with which to complete the formula. You see my love, as I’ve recently discovered, a living part of both subjects needs to be abundant, and after a hundred years, there just isn’t a lot to work with. But as where fortune was capricious before, now it must bend to the will of its master, for indeed, haven’t I procured one hundred pounds of raw material from the lineage of our doomed lovers, and hung it in my ballroom?” 5’s melodic laughter came back a thousand-fold from every crevice of the room as Joanna’s head hung limp in defeat.
“Come, come now. Chin up Joanna.” 5 intoned. Joanna meekly lifted her eyes, but never could have guessed what would greet them. He stood, arms folded, looking as regal as ever except now he possessed a stunning new enhancement to his already otherworldly presence. While the eyes were disquieting enough, the long, thin horns that sprung from his snow white forehead made Joanna scream.
“You see, my dear, knowledge, especially in its more arcane form, always comes with a heavy price.” 5 said, running his fingers up the crimson horn with a jet black tip that protruded heavenward on the left side of his forehead. At that precise moment the doors to the grand ballroom creaked open, their hinges singing in protest, as if dreading the next foul secret the house had to offer.
Through the doorway came a large, cloth draped object, at least ten feet in height, and as many feet in length, pulled by two more of 5’s pink hued plastic supplicants at the end of dual silver chains of a mammoth girth. The creatures tugged the unwieldy payload to a location five feet in front of Joanna’s crucified form. When the procession had reached its destination, two more mannequins stepped from their stations behind the object where they had lent a supporting role in the crafts locomotion. These four wore not a stitch and their faces were unadorned with any sigil like that of their sisters, but each had a row of bone white cryptic runes that ran the length of the left hand side of their lithe forms.
“Ah, the stars of our little production have finally arrived. Won’t this be such a splendid family reunion Joanna?” 5 said jovially. As he spoke, the beings began reaching under the jet black velvet tarp that kept the secrets of the object intact. Each servant procured a long clear hose, which remained anchored to the inky blackness that lay beyond the curtain, tipped with an angry looking copper needle. The creatures swiftly made their way to Joanna’s side, and with no warning or remorse, two of the beings inserted the needles in the skin behind her knees. Joanna bit her lip at the agony, but refused to give her sadistic captors the pleasure of seeing her cry. If she was going to meet her demise this night, she would go with her dignity intact.
As if part of some satanic pantomime, the servants who had pricked Joanna’s knees fell to all fours, one on each side of the cross. As they assumed this position, their sister creatures stepped upon their backs, and with a surgeon’s grace and precision, inserted the remaining two needles into Joanna’s outstretched arms. Although tears finally welled in her eyes, she held fast to her reserve, not uttering a single sound as she was penetrated by the monstrous pink devils. Their hellish task complete, the demons took their places, two a piece to either side of the mysterious hooded centerpiece. “And now, let us end this!” 5 stated emphatically, and with a lightning fast strike of his arm, he pulled the curtain away.
“Where the hell is Krahe?” 5 raged. And while the sound of the eternally poised and composed master of the house showing hairline fractures in his cool demeanor should have been enough to cause Joanna to start, the sight of what was revealed by the discarded curtain took her breath away and held it in an iron grip.
The hitherto obscured object was finally revealed to be a nightmare aquarium of sorts. Ruby glass on all four sides offered a view of a solitary figure, emaciated, rotted and swaddled from neck to feet in a thin layer of gauze yet still distinctly female, floating in a viscous liquid. Two tubes extended from her abdomen down into the base of the enclosure. Joanna was cognizant enough to have two flashes of intuition. The first being that the suspended creature, bobbing slightly left and right in the thick liquid was none other than Katze, or in other words her distant relative, that by rights should have expired a century ago. The second thing that sprang to Joanna’s mind was that the long hose-like tubes that protruded from the pitiful being’s midsection ended in her body, though if the connection was through knees or arms, she couldn’t be certain.
Glancing towards the bottom of the tank Joanna spied a control device of sorts, but where a normal device may have knobs and levers, this creation seemed to be orchestrated by means of an Ouija board decorated by a series of long, multicolored wires that connected each letter, number and phrase to the liquid prison. Her inspection was short lived, broken as it were by the sound of 5, more in control than ever, quietly intoning “Find him.”
With a snap of his fingers, all his pink demons sprang to life and shot off through the majestic ballroom entrance in search of their prey, their hollow footsteps clattering away in the distance like keys being pressed in unison on an enormous typewriter. 5 turned his gaze back to Joanna, a look of cool malice played across his alien eyes. “Well dear, in the brief intermission, let’s say we prepare for the next part of our unholy ceremony?” Reaching into his cloak, he produced a rough metallic object, six inches in length, and inscribed with a series of runes. “Darling, I don’t want you to take any of this personally, but a bit of finessing is required in order to prepare one’s body to give up its essence, and I’m dreadfully sorry to inform you that pain is the quickest means to that end.” With that he began gliding towards her, candlelight thrown haphazardly from the blade’s pocked surface.
Closer and closer he came, a dreadful smile playing across his burgundy lips. Joanna’s muscles began to clench into tight knots of taught sinew at the thought of the havoc to come at the end of the madman’s blade. 5 was upon her now. His arm rose in a fluid motion, and began a wide, crescent arch, as it descended with the speed of light itself, the blade singing as it cut through the still air of the chamber. Her eyes closed tight in the anticipation of soft flesh yielding to unforgiving metal at the hands of a surgeon who meant to destroy rather than save.
The result was anti-climatic, for the knife never reached its ivory target; instead it clattered to the hard, marble ground. Her eyes seemed to take millennia to open but when they did she was greeted by a strange vision. 5’s head was cocked to the side, not unlike a dog confronted with something he just cannot begin to fathom, as the knife and a glistening plastic head lie at his feet. Then all at once hell was unleashed!
A great din tore through the heavy silence that had fallen upon the ballroom. Frantically a tumultuous throng of pink homunculi blasted into the chamber. Most were no longer completely intact having lost hands or even entire arms. As to what had caused this malady, the answer took only seconds to be revealed, for with a roar the slick black motorbike tore into view behind 5’s fleeing minions. Upon the bike sat Krahe, his ghoulish face finally revealed and clad from head to toe in 5’s red leather riding attire, one arm steering the mechanical beast, the other wildly swinging an axe with which he rained hell upon every rosy villain that tarried too close to the thrashing head of the deadly weapon.
5 just could not believe the vista of destruction that played out before him like a humanoid demolition derby. “Krahe! Have you gone mad! Am I not about to give you what time and fate have so long kept at bay?” His plea did nothing to slow the creature. In seconds, not a single pink body was left standing. Now Krahe turned his black sockets in the direction of his benefactor, and although devoid of eyes, the look of pure murder that played there was unmistakable. His lipless mouth gaped wide as a hoarse croak escaped from deep within his bowels. “DIE!” he screamed, the word started strong, but slightly tapered as a mob of shiny crickets exited his uncovered orifice and scampered away to the darker corners of the room. Krahe opened the bike full throttle and hurtled towards his adversary. But, as fast as the bike flew, something was faster.
A blinding flash leaped across the room, open flame glinting on its electric blue surface. 5’s indigo mannequin, free of the encumbering ball gown, hurtled itself towards Krahe with devastating effect. Both bike and rider careened across the smooth polished floor like stones skipping across the placid surface of a tranquil lake. The blue demon was upon Krahe, and came prepared to deal a heavy toll. She appeared as featureless as ever except for a minor deadly detail. The forearm on her left side had been removed, and in its place flashed twelve inches of polished steel formed into a hideous blade that resembled nothing so much as a dragon’s fang, with which she slashed at Krahe with such blinding speed and ferocity that his leathers soon appeared as mere rags vainly attempting to mimic clothing.
But, what Krahe lacked in grace and beauty, he more than made up for with sheer tenacity. The nimble blue beast lunged forward, a hairs breadth from stabbing the chauffer with her deadly sting. Again and
again she jabbed, taunting the lumbering giant, until finally she tempted the fates one time too often. As the mannequin went in for another jab, Krahe merely stepped in front of the blade, plunging it deep within his breast. Grabbing the remainder of the blade, he twisted it harshly, tangling it within the vines of his remaining sinew.
Before the creature could get over the shock of Krahe’s insane action, he had cupped a bear like hand completely around its smooth blue head, and squeezed until all that remained was indigo powder. With that, the she-demon fell to her knees and collapsed with an empty thud. For the second time in as many minutes, Krahe honed in on his target.
5 appeared unflappable as he prepared to meet his assailant head on. Cocking his head slightly to the left 5 began a graceful ballet of swooping arm gestures and choreographed movements of his skeletal fingers that culminated in a crescendo of blue tinged electricity that shot forth from his palms on a pell-mell collision course with the rampaging Krahe. The beast rebounded violently back in the direction from whence he had come.
Krahe bent at the waist, standing motionless as thick steel hued plumes of acrid smoke danced heavenward. Time seemed to stand still as neither opponent moved, nor even appeared to breathe. Even Joanna was reluctant to exhale, unsure of what her future would bring, as either victor could desire her demise. Krahe shot upward like a bolt, revealing the smoldering cavity that had recently been his desiccated chest. 5 readied another concussive blast, but it was not to be as a thick black wave blasted forth from the abyss of Krahe’s bowels.
Each individual insect intoned the same litany “DIE, DIE, DIE!” as they engulfed 5 in an endlessly swirling hurricane of prickly legs and shiny ebony shells. 5’s fingers struck like lightning crushing and pinching his assailants in a blitzkrieg of extermination. Krahe, as rudimentary an intellect as he seemed to posses, realized that this would be the last opportunity to act, for once the master of the diabolical lodgings regained his composure, hell would most assuredly come raining down upon his rotting hide.
Again he began a lumbering charge at the pale, white sorcerer, who even now was making quick work of his assailants. 5 focused his demon gaze upon Krahe in the split second before the creature was upon him, and reacted with a speed hell borne. Bending at the waist, and dodging forward like a translucent bull, 5 impaled Krahe upon those hellish antennae.
Head bowed, but still every bit the master, 5 spoke. “You dare act with such insolence? I have journeyed beyond the universe itself to reunite you with your eternal love! I’ve given my very soul to give you life! And, now on the eve of our greatest victory your misdeeds have damned us all!” 5 pressed the twin daggers deeper within the breast of his foe.
Krahe’s head rolled to the right, his horrible sockets coming to rest upon his beloved bobbing impotently in her liquid cell. Katze’s slender hand pressed against the ruddy glass, reaching once more
for her doomed lover, a small spark of humanity burned bright in them both for the briefest of moments.
If 5’s words were met to placate the beast through shame, the action fell short of its desired effect. Instead Krahe met and countered verbal sparring with savage violence. With frightening ferocity, the walking dead abomination lifted his arms high above his head then drove them down like twin hammers upon the smooth antlers protruding from his chest. With a loud snap, the horns were severed from their owner. 5 stumbled backwards falling to the ground, a look of utter amazement playing across his face in a way most unnatural. For maybe the first time ever, in hundreds of years of existence, 5 was speechless.
Krahe was quick to take advantage of the stunned immobility of his tormentor. Wrenching a single spire from its resting place, Krahe fell upon the still prone 5, and brought that horrible instrument down, directly into the satanic orb of the stricken mystic aristocrat. It was then that the final dénouement was reached as Krahe lifted his pale master high above his ruined head and hurled him with terrific force against the crimson prison of his beloved.
5 struck the glass at such velocity that it could do nothing more than shatter into a multitude of blood hued shards that clattered to the ball room floor like a thousand ruby teardrops. Katze fell unceremoniously to the floor, ensconced in the thick, viscous liquid which had suspended her like a charred angel. Krahe pulled the remaining organic dagger from his breast and utilizing the pointed tip proceeded to stab at Joanna’s bonds until they resembled cheesecloth. Gently the terror removed the evil intravenous from her arms and knees and lowered her frail form to the ground. All sense of modesty on her behalf was cast to the wind, replaced with wide-eyed silence. In her mind, a dim flicker of reason played, telling her to thank the chauffer for his actions on her behalf, but her throat was incapable of giving her gratitude voice.
Turning his attention back to his love, the giant lurched forward. Katze lifted her head and met his fixed gaze, and though the eyes had gone absent, the undying love had not. The emotion, so rapidly returning after years of lying dormant, was all consuming. Perhaps that is why neither creature noticed the flash, pale and ethereal as a moonbeam, which fell on Krahe, emitting peels of sinister laughter.
5, grinning like a jack-o-lantern, make a mockery of gravity. He seemed to jump 20 feet across the ballroom, flame trailing behind him from the black candle gripped firmly in his left hand. He was now free of the confines of his cloak, but it is impossible to say if said garment would have impeded his spring heeled attack. 5 landed nimbly upon the giants broad shoulders, and swung the candle round, embedding it in Krahe’s empty eye socket.
His laughter was sickening as the innocent creatures head became a white hot furnace. His jovial ways were cut short however as Krahe reached behind his back and grasped the madman as if he were a child, and in turn slammed him face first to the unforgiving dance floor. Onward Krahe stumbled, his
head burning like a torch, towards the now outstretched arms of his bride. As the two doomed lovers embraced, flame consumed them with a voracious appetite.
On and on they burned, fuel for the hungering heat. In seconds, only smoldering ash remained. From the cinders came the slightest shifting of particulates, as a tiny form pulled free of the residue. A fat black cricket sat rubbing its hind appendages rhythmically producing the only sound in the still ballroom. “I… love… you, for… now, for… al…ways…”
Joanna lost track of the minutes she stood in that grand room as the hot tears fell upon her breast. Finally a cold chill gripped her spine, forcing her back to reality. She was standing, nude, in an empty house that stood god knows where, surrounded by the most unholy corpses that the world had ever known. Shivering Joanna scanned the room for any sign of a garment, although, truth be told, she felt she needed more of a comforting security blanket than warmth.
Suddenly a jet black vision filled her eyes. 5’s abandoned cloak lay sadly upon the cold floor. Gingerly she made her way across the freezing marble to the orphaned cape, tiny droplets marking her path from her still weeping stigmata. Kneeling to grasp the fabric with trembling fingers, Joanna thought she caught the briefest aroma of fragrant roses.
Soon she was enrobed in the darkness of the cloak, her hands pulling the edges tight so as to keep any warmth from exiting. The weight of the robe was reassuring. Slowly she made her way to the remains of the great tank so recently decimated by the violence of the evening. Ever mindful of the glass strewn about her feet, she stared at her reflection within a jagged crimson shard still attached to the dark wood frame of the vat.
She felt completely drained and empty, and her reflection provided little relief from her nihilistic thoughts. How hollow the face that peered back at her from the glass, and how maniacal the face that came to join her own.
Joanna spun and found herself face to face with 5. His grin was disquieting to say the least, but the horn still protruding from his right eye was nauseating, though if it caused him any discomfort he certainly hid it well. “My dear, I’m sorry our evening of romance and majik has unraveled like a tapestry frayed. Still all is not lost. Our lovers are still here…on an elemental level at least, and with the kind donation of your essence we can end this century of failure.”
As he spoke he removed the antler from his eye with a wet squish and brandished it before him as a weapon. Joanna retreated until she became pressed firmly against the dark wood of the tank’s framework. She felt a pressure in the small of her back from within the voluminous folds of the cloak. With haste she reached behind only to find the rough-hewn hilt of the ceremonial dagger from the proceeding festivities.
5 leapt at Joanna with blinding speed, but was stopped short thanks to the ragged steel that buried itself deep within his throat. “I would tell you to go to hell 5, but you’d probably enjoy that too much.” Joanna said, anger playing across her delicate face. He stumbled back, blood dripping from his bruised lips, as he tried to remove the spike from his bifurcated wind pipe. Realizing the obstruction was buried too deep, 5 came a few steps closer to Joanna, who stood firm. Unable to utter a word, 5 leaned forward and gently placed a kiss on Joanna’s lips, leaving them painted brilliant red with his blood. Joanna briefly looked towards the floor before turning her gaze back to 5. He stood smiling as sanguine rivers flowed from his mouth to cascade from his sculpted chin to the ivory floor below. Staring directly at Joanna with his remaining eye, he burst into a thousand violet butterflies.
The swirling miasma of the winged fractions of his malicious whole fanned in a hundred directions, each piece seeking the deadly touch of open flame. As each fragile butterfly ignited they made a final journey to light upon any wooden or fabric surface they could find, in turn bringing destruction to the House of Thirteen Doors.
Joanna, in no immediate hurry to find herself incinerated began a frenzied flight from the ballroom followed close behind by angry fingers of flame that grasped the walls and ceilings of the mansion as if Satan’s hands were reaching up from the depths of Hell itself.
Faster and faster she ran through the unfamiliar halls. Turning her head to see the flames progress, she missed a turn in the rapidly disintegrating passage and collided head on with a full length mirror, which amazingly did not stop her forward momentum into stygian oblivion.
Joanna awoke in a bed of fresh snow that blindingly reflected the sunlight that managed to sneak its way through the leafless, skeletal branches of hundreds of trees. As for how long she slept, encircled in the black embrace of 5’s cloak she could not say, nor did she remember how she even came to be in the forest.
Oddly enough, she did not feel cold in the least, even as she now stood barefoot on the frozen ground. A few hundred feet in the distance, Joanna could see that the forest seemed to rise a bit then end all together. Heading to this precipice, she gazed in wonder at the sight that lay far down in the valley below.
In a clearing, where intuitively she knew the House had once stood, remained only a flowing copper stain upon the new snow. Any trace of the path she had entered upon, the crimson jungle lords etched from weird stone, or the sprawling necropolis had been erased completely. No bird sang nor branch rustled to provide a soundtrack to the day.
Joanna ended her adventure as she had began it completely and utterly alone, save for the single lavender butterfly that sprang forth from the midnight cloak draped about her alabaster shoulders. The creature took to the air, trailed by musical laughter she knew all too well.
All material herein is © Daniel XIII 2014
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