Chapter 1 – The Unwitting
Lucia stared out through the car window, chin propped on top of his fist. Beside him in the driver’s seat, King hummed a soft tune, probably one from the rock band Demon Card.
They’ve been on the road for the entire day. A few more hours and the road would be invisible in the night. Hopefully, they’d arrive at their designated new home before dark.
As the road got bumpier, Lucia recollected his thoughts about the entire decision to move. His mother had died just two months ago. His father, King, had been totally devastated by it. Lucia hadn’t really cared, at first. He is—was never close to his mother. She wasn’t his real mother anyway. After her burial, a friend of King’s called, offering condolences and by-and-by, have you heard about this mansion on sale…? Struggling with grief and unable to stay in the house he had shared with Emilia Heartwright, King had decided to move to a new place, a new town, wishing to start all over again.
‘Yeah. And have a new brother, probably.’ He thought darkly, before glaring back at the all the forest breezing by outside his window.
Their new house was actually located some two or more towns away from where they had been living, Mary Loose. They had begun traveling yesterday early in the morning, stayed at a cheap hotel for the night, and then started traveling again when the rooster crowed. And now, on the brink of dozing off, Lucia decides to count the number of days it would take before his father decided that moving is, indeed, a pain in the ass.
Lucia wasn’t fond of moving. The last time he had checked, he’d been moving from town to town nearly four times in his entire 17 years of living, this one being the fifth. The first time was when his father divorced his second wife, Lucia’s stepmother. He was only around 5 years old then. The second time was when Lucia got into a fight— which was more a huge brawl of fists and kicks with their neighbor’s son. He’d won, of course. After that came the bloodiest moment of his life, he recalled. He had stayed at the hospital for an entire week, after getting beaten by five brutes ten times larger and bulkier than his 7-year old frame. The bastard that had put them up to it had leered at him over the fence, just before his father decided they were moving to a new town.
The next one was when his father picked the wrong location, and after a huge thunderstorm, their house went down in ashes. Suffice to say, they had to move again, and this time, to Mary Loose, where King met Emilia. He was already 14 when he met the sweet and gentle lady. He would have learnt to love her, if only she hadn’t kept looking at him with hidden fear and worry. Worry for what? He didn’t bother to know.
The car jostled as a tyre ran over a large rock. The jump caught Lucia off-guard, his body turning rigid before he looked at his father with wide angry eyes.
“The hell was that for?”
“You were thinking bad thoughts.”
“Moron.” He spat at him angrily, before going back to glaring out the window. He heard a low chuckle coming from the elder blond, and failed to duck from an offending hand that went up to his hair and ruffled it.
“Whatever you say, kiddo.”
The rest of the ride was spent in silence, save for King’s continuous humming of old 80’s rock songs.
Parking the car outside an old bar, both father and son opened their respective car doors. Shoes stepping on rough dirt road, they both looked around the isolated town.
“Dad, are we in Wild Wild West or what?”
“Probably. Anyways, it’ll be a few more miles before we get there. Just gotta refuel and get some food.”
Grunting, Lucia followed his father into the bar. Once inside, he grimaced at the sight of old and greasy men loitering around, some unconscious, either from fists or too many drinks.
“Dad, can we hurry things up?”
He scowls at his old man, but follows anyway. He couldn’t help but flinch when a drunken man with a fuzzy beard slumped right in front of him. He was barely able to avoid him, relying on years of fights in which he had to keep dodging falling bodies. Calling out for his father again, Lucia hurried ahead, walking exactly an inch to the right of his father.
They reach an old woman behind the bar, who was idly drying glasses with a dirty cloth. King pulled out his wallet and placed a hundred Edel on the table.
“50 for some food, if you please, and the rest for gas.”
The woman gazed at King scornfully before snatching the money with dirty hands and walking away. Maybe to call someone else in to do the work. Lucia couldn’t stay in this place anymore. The smell of alcohol was overwhelming. The moment the woman left, he quickly turned around and left the bar, the car being his targeted destination.
Wrapping his jacket tighter around himself, Lucia wondered why the actually hot air of the town chilled him to the bone. Pulling the car door open, he settles himself inside and waits for his father to come back with the supplies.
“And I was crying out loud… like you’ll never know…”
“Dad, stop singing.”
“Because you walked away, walked away, Caroline~”
“Then she said— The hell?!”
“You were asking for it,” Lucia bluntly said, fingers not leaving the radio’s switch to make sure his father wouldn’t try to switch it on again. King glared. “Anyways, I’ll go mad if you keep on singing. Think of it as a life saving action.”
King snorted at this and went back to the steering wheel, but not after swatting at the hand on the radio’s switch and ruffling blond hair.
“Someday, you’re gonna learn when to respect your father.”
“I ain’t respecting you ‘til you learn to respect me, dad.” Lucia answered softly, before going back to looking out the window. King continued to hum his favorite 80’s rock music, fingers often tapping on the steering wheel.
The ride continued on for another half an hour, until the car came to a screeching halt outside a black rusty gate. Eyes wide, Lucia stared at the place while his hands removed his seatbelt.
“Dad… are you sure we’re in the right place?”
“No doubt about it, kiddo.” King muttered softly, also staring at the mansion. Lucia noticed a man standing somewhere inside the gate, waving at them. “I think that’s the dude, dad,” he whispered. King looked at where his son was pointing. “Yep, that’s him,” King said, nodding at his son to follow him. “Come on.”
Car doors opening simultaneously, father and son approached the gate. King reached for the latch. Just then, a wind blew, and the two jumped a bit when the rusted gate suddenly opened. King and Lucia exchanged uneasy glances. The man didn’t seem to mind their jumpiness.
Smiling widely at them, Genma continued waving his hand at the two approaching figures. “Well, howdy, guys. Glad ya can make it all the way here! Thought maybe yeh’d got caught up in bad traffic.” The mansion was situated a small distance from the nearest village, and while the surrounding forest made for beautiful scenery, it also meant almost complete isolation. “ Dehyahyahyahya! Neways, gotta make ‘it quick. Hafta leave, y’know? Stuff ta do.”
Nodding slightly, King listened to the man talk while Lucia looked around the mansion, examining its windows and walls with disdain.
“Anyways, the Artreichts wanna get rid of this ol’ house, y’know? Guess no one alive from that family wants it nemore, so instead of burnin’ down hundred o’ years o’ family ownership, they thought o’ sellin’ the place. It’s sorta sad, y’know? It’s a great place, spacious, roomy… but, heh. Can’t blame ‘em. Somethin’s bad here, something went wrong.”
Ignoring the still talking man, Lucia continued his inspection of the house. He gazed up. The place looked about two stories tall, but it was large, so that more than made up for it. It was then that the sight of fluttering curtains caught his attention. Stepping a little closer, he squinted his eyes to inspect one of the second floor windows. There it was again. The sudden appearance of something. A strange glint of silver. Blinking, the blond rubs his eyes and looked back at the window. Its curtain was not fluttering anymore.
“And that’s all there is to know, sir. The previous owner said ta watch out for noises. But she ain’t been back here in years. She gets cranky at times, when unregistered guests enter the house.”
Smiling politely, King side stepped the man and approached his son.
“Dad, what does he mean by… watch out for noises…?”
“Oh ignore him, kiddo. You know how some people are.”
King turned around and headed back to their car, probably to get their luggage. Lucia sighed softly, and after sparing one last look at his new home, and at that certain window in the second floor’s west wing, trudged on ahead.
Chapter 2 – Stranger In My Attic
Up in the attic of the huge mansion, Lucia swore as he stretched and heard the cracking of his spine. He had been fiddling around the uppermost level of the manor, looking for stuff to throw out. Along the way, he had encountered not so friendly housemates; rodents.
“Oh, go away.” He pouted when the little mouse blinked at him, its whiskers twitching, prompting Lucia to pluck the rodent from its perch on the wooden crate in front of him. Before the rodent could voice its protest in its squeaky voice, Lucia threw it out of the attic, through the small window just beside him.
‘What’s with house pests nowadays anyway?’
He grumbled lowly, cursing the existence of house pests—dust bunnies included. The sound of footsteps coming from below woke him up from his rant, and quickly sitting upright, Lucia turned his head expectantly at the hole, which served as a door to the attic. Then the wooden door pushed up and King appeared, still wearing that ridiculous fur jacket of his.
“Look’t what I got, kid,” King settled himself on the attic floor, ignoring the dust that he displaced and sent floating around the entire place. “An authentic Winchester that literally packs a bullet.” King flicked a latch on the gun’s handle, and a secret compartment revealed itself. The hidden space could hide about three rounds.
Lucia could feel the corner of his cheek twitching in annoyance, as if wanting to sneer at his father. But he resisted this, and decided to ignore him. The other took notice of this, and King gave him a level glare of disapproval.
“What? It’s a gun. Don’t you kids like guns?”
Lucia turned away and snorted.
“I’m not some seven-year-old who plays ‘Cowboy’, dad.”
King stared at his spawn, as Lucia continued unpacking the box in front of him.
“True,” he stated. “But you wouldn’t let go of acting like Darth Maul for ages. I had to threaten to ground you before you broke something while swinging that broom around.”
Lucia flushed at the memory.
“Oh?” King quirked an eyebrow, grinning. “And the face-paints…?”
“…I don’t suppose that woman ever took off the lock on her make-up set?”
“No, she didn’t.” King slowly shook his head. Then he narrowed his eyes slightly. “…Why?”
“Why do you want to know whether she ever stopped locking up her cosmetics and lipstick?”
Lucia opened his mouth to answer, but was cut off by a question.
“You’re not -gay- are you?!”
Lucia hurled an old, ochre-coloured and probably-quite-valuable-really photo frame at his parental figure. King leaned to the side as the rectangular object went sailing past his head, laughter resonating from deep within his chest. Lucia turned to pick up a vase, and by the time he’d turned back to chuck it, the edge of King’s jacket was disappearing down the hole in the floor from whence it came.
Lucia sighed, frustrated, and brushed a hand through his hair. Setting the vase back in place, he kicked lightly at an old, wooden study table to relieve some of his anger.
He jumped when something hit the attic floor with a muted thud.
He glanced over.
It was an old book; the pages were yellow with age and the dark blue cover was covered with a light frame of dust. Lucia walked over and picked it up, curiosity getting the better of him. He took care not to crush any of the delicate sheaves of paper, as some of the pages stuck out in various triangles. Oddly enough, the book wasn’t bound with glue like others usually were. Its spine was made up of many rings of white string, looped carefully along one side of the bound paper, and they brushed roughly against the insides of his fingers in the blonde’s grip. To his surprise, the book was quite thick, but reasonably light. Its weight did not suit its width.
Lucia brushed his fingers over the worn, hard cover –gone soft with use- and felt his brow crease in confusion. How old was this thing? Turning it over, he flipped through the pages. They were mostly blank, but the flickering off-white space began to show dots of something –ink?- as he continued the motion, and at last the dark splots gave way to text, writing; he must have started from the back, then.
Lucia stopped flipping, his thumb slotting into place along the book’s side to keep his place, as a set of numbers caught his eye.
‘13th November 1896.’
His eyes widened.
‘1896?!’ he thought. ‘That’s… that’s over two hundred years ago!!’
The teen swallowed. What was a relic like this… heck, WHY was there a relic like this here? The book was surprisingly preserved, and something sitting around in some moldy old attic shouldn’t have been. It should be much, much more worn than this.
Maybe the old care-taker guy… what was his name? -Gemmima?- had taken care of it.
Still, shouldn’t things this old be in museums or something? In fact, he was surprised the book hadn’t crumbled into dust in his hands. And why hadn’t the caretaker-guy kept it in one of the huge oak bookshelves in the library?
Lucia was slightly disturbed.
Somehow, he didn’t think the caretaker had even known about the ancient object in his hands. The book looked untouched.
A slight breeze came through the open window and numerous pages flipped over. But Lucia noticed something.
‘They’re going in the wrong direction! What the fuck?!’
The wind settled, and his eyes came to rest on a page. It was similar to the rest with its off-white colour and yellowed edges. But there were a few fairly large splotches of –something- in the center of it, and as Lucia looked closer, he realized something with frightening clarity.
He had been right. The splotch was ink.
But that wasn’t all it was.
It was ink, and by the crusted, dark maroon in some areas…
It was ink mixed with blood.
Lucia stared fixedly at the book, eyes locked onto the page, and fought against something rising up in his throat –not a scream, Lucia refused to scream. Disgust, maybe? Horror?
And then, hands.
The fingers dithered lightly on the edges of the stain, before sliding up to trace along the book’s top edges, the touches butterfly-light.
Lucia bit down on his tongue.
He could still see the page’s dark strains through the one palm that lovingly covered it.
Pale, white, see-through hands had crept onto the page, caressing the semi-rough paper, and Lucia almost screamed, chocked it back so it barely made a noise, almost snapped the book shut on spectral fingers.
The hands were attached by wrists to arms, which extended from the opening between his own limbs and his sides. They were pale, white and transparent.
‘Oh fucking hell….’
He gulped, and tensed.
Lucia turned, slowly.
The hands slid out from under his arms as he did so, withdrawing gently.
Behind him stood a girl –no, boy?- a child, barely up to his waist.
He, she… was pale. So pale, so white. Sunlight shone on the child, bright and illuminating through the window. Shone through. The child was so pale. Almost transparent.
The child had long hair.
The child was barefoot.
The child was covered in chains and blood.
It stood unsteady, everything about it wavered; just so silently, looking so weak and lacking in any sort of hope, filled with despair. Slowly, heavily, with as much strength as the small body could muster, it raised its head. And Lucia looked into the most haunted pair of eyes he had ever set his gaze upon.
The lips moved.
“I was waiting…”
And the child was gone.