Chapter 4:

Chapter 4

Fate of Yggdrasil

Part 1
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“Where…?” It took a minute of staring at the desensitizingly white ceiling of my own room for me to realize that I was back at home. After the nightmarish evening I’d had, waking up in the warmth of my bed was a relief. While passing out before, the thought of dying had barged into my mind, so just being able to open my eyes again and breathe was a godsend. Exhaustion overtook me as my eyes began to droop, but a cheerful, melodious humming came from another room in my apartment snapping me back to attention. I could hear footsteps coming down the hall as whoever the person was approached.Bookmark here

“Awake, I see.” Anesha; she sauntered through the door to my room with the smuggest smile I’d ever seen plastered on her face, with an apple in hand. Those wicked red eyes gleamed, causing me to sit up, but even the slightest movement caused my entire body to ache. I fell back into a wet sensation down on the bed. By my arm, a crimson pool of blood built up, staining the sheets, and dripping onto the floor. The wound I’d sustained from the tall man to my shoulder was poorly wrapped in white gauze that’d been soaked through.Bookmark here

“W-What the hell are you doing just standing there? Help close this wound!” I tried to place pressure on the injury, noticing Anesha’s expression sour out of the corner of my eye.Bookmark here

“Need I remind you of your position?”Bookmark here

“No, stop! I-I’m sorry!” That woman began to raise her hand, which horrified me even more after I’d seen her magic in action. “But…w-what about my shoulder?”Bookmark here

“Calm yourself; It’ll be fine. The seed will do everything possible to keep its bearer alive.”Bookmark here

“The seed…right.” Ignoring the intense pain, I propped myself upright and placed my back against the cool wall. “…”Bookmark here

Anesha sat down in my computer chair and removed her strangely mechanical looking black hat. Upon closer inspection, the pointed, long hat was fitted with luminescent purple lining running to the tip. Every few seconds a slight purple glow would pulsate from the stitching like an LED. Intrigued as I was, I didn’t want to bother Anesha with questions. I quietly observed her, with apple in hand, slowly typing away on my keyboard. “I cannot seem to advance beyond this. Your computer is asking for a password. What is it?”Bookmark here

“…Oh…It’s ‘extrasensory perception’ with a space in between the words.” I answered.Bookmark here

“Quite the mouth full…enter it!” She pushed the keyboard into my face, and I logged her in. Playing around, going onto the internet, searching articles, and rifling through some of the folders on my desktop, which made me rather nervous of what she may come across, Anesha was enamored with everything. “My…it’s so different from what I was told. This is the internet, yes?”Bookmark here

“Yes, well, the whole thing isn’t…that’s my computer, which connects to the internet and the internet is…”Bookmark here

“Such a long-winded explanation.” Anesha became totally engrossed with the PC again. It occurred to me, wherever Anesha had come from must not have had computers or the internet.Bookmark here

(Is that hat not mechanical?) After a couple of minutes, she stopped and with a sigh and a stretch, finished. She turned to look over at me with a satisfied half-smile. Bookmark here

“Now, you were unable to ask questions before, but I’ll allow it as you’ve been good to remain quiet.”Bookmark here

“I…can ask whatever I want?” Anesha nodded. “…My mother!” I’d just remembered. “She was home, right? Where is she?” Obvious moonlight shown onto the blinds of my bedroom signaling it was still night.Bookmark here

“So, the woman who was here before is your mother? I’d not have guessed that with her red hair, and how… different you look from her, but you two do share the same eyes. Regardless, I placed a ward on this household. When a ward is in place, depending on the parameters, it’ll cause all those who aren’t allowed in its area of activation to leave. They will complete any gaps in logic as need be to justify their actions.”Bookmark here

“Mind control, then…”Bookmark here

“If that’s what you’d like to call it.”Bookmark here

“…You did that before in the library too, right?” A dismissive nod signaled I was correct with my assumption.Bookmark here

“This is rather surprising. Your first question was about your mother, but not your situation, or who I am, or what’d happened last night. Why is that?”Bookmark here

“I pieced together a lot by living through this…hell for the past few days. You’re a witch, right?”Bookmark here

“In the simplest way put. I’m a little surprised that term is still used so readily.”Bookmark here

“…And, you mentioned it yesterday, but that thing…the tall man was a homunculus.”Bookmark here

“Also, yes.”Bookmark here

“And he wanted the seed of…whatever, right?”Bookmark here

“Most likely.” Anesha stood up from the computer chair and walked over to me. She pointed her finger at the scar on my neck and continued. “Right now, within you is the Seed of Yggdrasil.”Bookmark here

“Yggdrasil?”Bookmark here

“Indeed. It exudes copious amounts of mana, and for those not used to the scent of mana, it can be tremendously intoxicating. For there to be a homunculus not just simply wondering about, but also using such archaic magic, I’m rather fascinated.”Bookmark here

“What is the seed, and what’s mana?”Bookmark here

Anesha lowered her hand. “Those two, they tie into each other as a matter of fact. The seed produces mana, mana is the lifeforce for the entire world itself. Every living being on the planet produces, at least a very, very small amount of mana, but the seed has the power to produce nigh infinite amounts. Mana is what I use to cast spells. I’m sure you remember the fires and the strings from before. I used the mana within my body to do such things. After all, we witches and warlocks have far more mana in our bodies than you humans.”Bookmark here

“So, there are more of you?”Bookmark here

“There are. You do ask a lot of questions, goodness.”Bookmark here

“I-I’m sorry!”Bookmark here

“You needn’t apologize. This is your reward after all, relish in it. Alas, the time has come…if you’ll excuse me. I’ll be leaving.”Bookmark here

“Huh? I still have more questions!”Bookmark here

“And they’ll wait. I have other things to handle and I’ve grown quite tired. Your mother shall return soon; I’d suggest cleaning the blood off your bedding to avoid suspicion. I’ll not waste my time cleaning your mess, so I’d urge you to hurry. Also, allow me to state this so there are no qualms about it in the future. I don’t want anyone else knowing about me; so, keep silent as to my existence, understand? Now, be quick about the cleaning.” Anesha walked toward the front door nonchalantly, and with the snap of her fingers, her hat glided back to the top of her head. Fighting through the pain of my aching body caused me to flop onto the floor as I chased after her.Bookmark here

“But, if I have a hard time cleaning, wouldn’t it be better for you to help me?” I didn’t think it was out of line to ask that; I was wrong. Anesha stopped and turned on her heels, walking back to me. She knelt down and grabbed me by the chin with a stiff grip.Bookmark here

“Don’t misunderstand, boy. Allowing you to still live what little of a life you still have left in as much normalcy as possible, why, that’s me doing something out of the kindness of my own heart. I could have made it so that you’d not be able to move, speak, see, hear or feel until the day the seed was ready, but I took mercy on you. Asking any more of me would be insulting. Remember, Fate, you’re a tool…an incubator…with only slightly more use than soil.”Bookmark here

Her deep brownish red eyes stared into mine, unflinching as she conveyed her superiority. Everything she said, she felt. To her, I was barely more than dirt, and to her, I should see her as God. Again, Anesha walked toward the door. “What…will happen when this is all over?” I didn’t care what she did to me as punishment, I desperately needed an answer to one last question.Bookmark here

Anesha sighed and with a simple tilt of the head responded. “In a little short of 1 years’ time…when the seed bursts forth from your chest, you’ll die, and your soul will be destroyed.”Bookmark here

Part 2Bookmark here

“Why is it so humid outside!? I swear, global warming is going to kill us all. Hmm? Fate are you home? I see your bag is here…so.” As my mother closed the front door behind her, she crept to my room. I could hear the rustling of a thin plastic bag when she reached the doorway. “Fate honey, are you awake?”Bookmark here

“Hmm? Yeah, I’m up? What’s going on?” I answered while laying with my back to her.Bookmark here

“Well, on the way home I saw a nice car that was right in our price range and wanted you to check it out with me.”Bookmark here

“Oh, you know…I went past the clubroom and stuff…”Bookmark here

“Right! Does this mean the hermit routine is over?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I guess so.”Bookmark here

“…Well, sit up! If you’re feeling better, than I’d like to see my son’s face a little.”Bookmark here

“My stomach’s hurting me a bit, so I was trying to get some sleep. I’ve got plans tomorrow.”Bookmark here

“Oh?”Bookmark here

“Also, would you really want to see my face as I look at you disappointedly, knowing that you’re breaking your diet with the ice cream you bought?”Bookmark here

“Uh!” I heard her stumble a bit, the bag once again rustling as she quickly hid it. “D-don’t worry! It’s…fat free…”Bookmark here

“Uh-huh. I’m too tired to check, so I’ll let you go for now.”Bookmark here

“Ok…wait a minute, I gave birth to you, remember? I’m the parent here!”Bookmark here

“How many parent’s make promises that they’d eat healthier and break them, again?”Bookmark here

“Uh…goodnight, Fate!” She closed my door and I could hear her walk to the front and into the kitchen.Bookmark here

I rolled over in my bed and clutched my shoulder tightly, hoping to slow the bleeding. The blood-stained covers for my bed were sitting underneath the mattress and I’d grabbed a replacement set. The fact that my mom hadn’t said anything must’ve meant I was successful in hiding the details. With the scar on my throat being totally visible in anything but a turtle neck and blood still dripping from my shoulder, Mom just giving up and going about her business was the best outcome. I agonizingly rolled over onto my back and stared up at the ceiling of my unlit room.Bookmark here

“You’ll die…and your soul will be destroyed…” A feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time over took me; helplessness. “What did she mean…soul?” I chuckled a bit, but then stopped out of fear it would turn into sobs and whimpers. There was no reason to not trust her words anymore at that point. I wasn’t going to live beyond a year. “1 year…left…huh.” The dark ceiling looked back at me. “Funny…you’ll probably be here after I’m gone.” Again…that overwhelming feeling of helplessness overcame me. “Will…you…watch over my mother for me…?” I covered my eyes and tried to hold back the tears…I failed at that.Bookmark here

Part 3Bookmark here

The next day was filled with moping around the house. With no way of knowing when I’d see Anesha next, I was left with a chest full of anxiety and mind full of nihilistic thoughts. I caught myself doing some of the most depressing things. On my laptop, I started plugging away at a bucket list. My fondest dream, having our own occult investigation T.V. show and traveling to Japan, India, Italy and South America.Bookmark here

We’d dreamt of having a show named Paranormal and Occult: True investigations. I’d work with everyone from the club and we’d travel from country to country. The strange mysteries and myths of every culture and society the world had to offer were endlessly fascinating. Our fondest belief in the Occult Research and Study club was that uncovering things shrouded in mystery was our goal. With none of us having had traveled very far before, and not having any real connections, we were going to fund and produce the show by ourselves if need be. It was a dream, but we all wanted to try our best and make it a reality.Bookmark here

Kids, I didn’t want kids, but I did want to get married one day. Even if it ended badly, I wanted to find someone that I truly loved and see what happened from there. See if I could make it work, see if the commitment would change me, see if I would be happy, deep down. I really wanted to try and have a happy marriage.Bookmark here

Leaving Mom all alone was the thought that bugged me the most. She didn’t have anyone else aside from me, not even her own parents. The thought of death was terrifying, and even more so the thought that after I died, my ‘soul’ would be destroyed. I didn’t understand what that meant. Not being religious in any way, I’d only known what was taught to me by my father and what I read about what it meant to ‘have a soul’. My soul being destroyed could only be bad, I’d just stop existing. Before I noticed, an entire page of my document was filled with one word, ‘damnit’ typed over and over.Bookmark here

The instant messenger app on my computer sprung open, signaling that someone was trying to contact me. It was from Chester, he asked in the club’s group if everyone was online.Bookmark here

[You can see that with your own eyes, can’t you?] Demica replied, her icon being a Persian cat, fitting her self-crafted motif.Bookmark here

[I’m here. I was just on invisible.] Teddy joined in with his icon popping up on the screen. It was a famous MMA fighter holding up an Irish flag post fight.Bookmark here

[I see! I also see that the shapeshifter pretending to be my close friend, @Fate_Isley, has found a way to sign into his computer!!!]Bookmark here

Chester really knew how to keep a joke going way too long. He changed his profile picture to Sherlock Holmes looking inquisitive, which replaced his cute anime girl icon. [Anyway…] I replied. [Did you just send a message to make sure that all of your bad jokes and dumb gifs were seen?]Bookmark here

[No! But, now that you mention it, I did find quite the cavalcade of hilarious gifs of small animals being unable to climb stairs. Quite funny, quite funny. However, I have something far more interesting!] Chester linked us an article. [This! It appears something strange is afoot within the city! According to this article 6 people were found with widely misshapen heads caused some kind of infection, making their eyeballs swell up!] I didn’t need to read the webpage to know what Chester was going on about. The tall man…I’d hoped that somewhere deep down Anesha would’ve helped those people, but it was either impossible or she just didn’t care enough. [The people all claimed to have seen some type of monster before losing consciousness, one of which was a police officer. When I looked into it, I found that this may also have something to do with the happenings at the old Rockwell estate.]Bookmark here

[Rockwell estate? Why do you think that?] I chimed in, now more interested.Bookmark here

[Over the past few days there have been a lot of investigations done in the Rockwell estate. The investigation took place due to the strange, loud noises and suspicious behaviors of individuals around and inside of the residence. So far, no information has been made public, but a friend of mine is saying that the reason some police officers have been so up in arms lately has to do with the things they’ve been finding in the estate.] My thoughts turned sour. I assumed it had something to do with the tall man and Anesha after all.Bookmark here

[Then that means your suspicions were correct for a change. Even a broken clock…] Demica wrote while posting an image of a patronizing cat.Bookmark here

[WOMAN!!!] Chester countered.Bookmark here

[Hang on, how long have you been looking this over?] I asked.Bookmark here

[Just a few days now. If you’d read any of the texts I sent, maybe you would’ve been caught up.] Demica replied, clearly annoyed. [We’ve been canvasing the area for a bit now, trying to get footage of whatever is happening.]Bookmark here

[You’re kidding!] My heart dropped.Bookmark here

[Nope! And we’re going in tonight! Isn’t that right, doofus leader?]Bookmark here

[I take it you mean me, woman?]Bookmark here

[Yes.]Bookmark here

[Vile woman. Yes, as it sounds like this may be the best time.]Bookmark here

[Are you guys nuts!?] I typed and screamed at my laptop. [That place has to be off limits! You know, against the law! We could end up going to jail, if we’re lucky! If not, something more dangerous could be going down and we could get hurt!] My chest tightened. (If something like the tall man shows up again, then they could be hurt. I have to stop them.)Bookmark here

[What happened to my adventurous compatriot? He, who would follow me into the underpass, over the most crowded highway in all of the city, just to see if we could get a shot of the supposed Owl Man that was hiding there?]Bookmark here

[That’s different!]Bookmark here

[How so?] Couldn’t think of a retort.Bookmark here

Demica chimed in again. [I’ve got no idea why you’re being so weird lately, but this is the best story we’ve gotten in a long time. If something really is going down, then there’s 4 of us, we can handle it, and if not, run away. I was hoping that it could be 5 but doesn’t seem like you’re interested in joining us.]Bookmark here

[That’s not it! It just sounds dangerous!]Bookmark here

[Well, I’m still going. Teddy, are you down? Perry just said he’s in.]Bookmark here

[Yeah. I do think we should be extra careful though.] Teddy rejoined the conversation again after remaining quiet for most of the exchange.Bookmark here

[And naturally, I’m in as well. Doppelganger, will you join us too?] Chester asked as he sent me a meeting invitation on the phone.Bookmark here

(I can’t let them go. What do I do?) Racking my brain figure out a solution yielded no immediate solution. [I’ll go with you guys. At least to make sure that you don’t do anything dumb.] I settled on running chaperone, hoping I could figure out something by the meetup time of 1AM. At the very least, I could at least be there to figure out something out. (I need to contact Anesha if something bad happens…but how?)Bookmark here

Part 4Bookmark here

I waited on a bench for the others in front of the massive Rockwell estate. With my limited knowledge of medicine and the help of videos online, I struggled to rebandage my shoulder, succeeding to an acceptable level. When that was all taken care of, I rushed over to the meeting spot with hopes of being the first to arrive. Ivy dug into the old concrete and wood, reaching all the way past the dust caked windows with tendrils climbing toward the roof as nature had begun reclaiming its domain. Along both sides of the building, partially uncut shrubbery and age-worn, wrought iron gates framed the property. The overly excited feelings about exploring the estate that my heart was harboring had to be stifled, as my plans to that point of hindering my friends had failed. Calling the police, failed; on my way to the estate I didn’t even see so much as a bike cop. They took my call and even heard me out but must’ve taken my urgency as a joke. Trying to talk Chester out of it was obviously impossible. He was headstrong, more so than any other person I’d ever met. My last option was to try and contact Anesha…which I still hadn’t figured out a method for.Bookmark here

Deep in thought, I completely missed Demica calling out my name at first. “Fate!”Bookmark here

“Huh?” The rest of the Occult Research and Study club, except for Chester, were exiting his shaggy, yet reliable van. The van owner in question, however, was walking around the back of the building. “Hey, what’s Chester doing back there?”Bookmark here

“He’s really excited. Come on.” Demica, Perry and Teddy all followed in behind Chester to the building nonchalantly.Bookmark here

“Wait! You guys, hold on!” The others stopped and turned to me.Bookmark here

“Fate, come on…what’s with you lately? Normally, you’re more outgoing than this?”Bookmark here

“It’s dangerous in there…I think.”Bookmark here

“You think? Why?”Bookmark here

“…” Anesha was clear about one thing, that I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about her. “I mean…with all the weird stuff going on…it could be dangerous…is all.”Bookmark here

“Relax, that’s why I brought Dad’s gun.” Demica opened her small waist coat and showed the handle of the gun peeking out from her beltline.Bookmark here

“…Don’t know how much I trust you with a gun, when I can barely trust you to keep your glasses on.”Bookmark here

“Hey! I have them on!”Bookmark here

“G-Guys, Chester alre-eady went inside.” Teddy pointed out. With a dismissive hair flip Demica stormed off, followed by Perry and Teddy.Bookmark here

“Damnit! Anesha…where are you right now?” I ran after the others to catch up. Once we were around back, the place became even more mystifying. The utterly enormous back garden’s foliage had wilted slightly but managed to overgrow onto hedges trimmed into the shape of people and animals. They were incredible, bigger than even the actual animals themselves, towering over us, wrapped in a combination of brown and green plants. A small shed off to the far end of the garden held a dried pond seated right at its nose with a finely crafted stone brim. To others, it may have looked barren, a totally rundown property, but to me it was beautiful.Bookmark here

“I see you’re still you at least. We’ll get some shots of this area later, so you can gawk at them at your leisure.” Demica said while the others scaled a rope line up to one of the balconies.Bookmark here

“Is that a grappling hook? Where the hell did Chester get a…never mind. What did you mean, I’m still me?”Bookmark here

“The normal Fate always gets engrossed in architecture. You get a wide-eyed look about you whenever you see old buildings and whatnot. What I mean to say is that you been acting weird ever since you came to the clubroom all beat up a few weeks ago. Chester is a moron, so he won’t admit it out loud, but he’s worried.”Bookmark here

“Didn’t know you cared so much about how Chester felt.”Bookmark here

“He’s still my friend, you dolt. Also, me, the big guy and my brother are worried too. You just up and disappeared. I’m guessing whatever it was must’ve been bad; because you’d normally just tell us what was going on. Does it have anything to do with…your Dad?”Bookmark here

“No.”Bookmark here

“…Alright…I won’t pry anymore.” Chester called down to us as the others had reached the balcony. “Come on, let’s not leave them waiting.” Demica began to climb the rope, slowly as she was far from the most athletic girl around. I waited on the ground for her to make it up; partly because I was worried she’d fall and hurt herself, partly because of my shoulder. It still hurt. The bandages seemed to have stopped the bleeding but putting all my weight on it could’ve made things worse. “You going to stand there and enjoy the view, or are you coming?”Bookmark here

I looked up to see Demica still climbing. “Right, well…not like there’s much to really enjoy. Just a flat plane.”Bookmark here

“…I was talking about the yard…” Her eyes narrowed while looking back at me.Bookmark here

“Same here…” I wasn’t talking about the yard. My shoulder hurt like hell as I started up the rope. I couldn’t tell if my arm was starting to bleed, as the jacket I wore was black and wouldn’t show, which was an intentional choice. Once I reached the balcony, I checked, but the wound seemed to have not reopened. (How? Is it closed?)Bookmark here

“Fate, are you coming?”Bookmark here

“Yeah.” (Is this because of the seed? My shoulder still hurts, but…I’ll check when I get a chance. I’ve got to keep an eye out.)Bookmark here

Chester cranked a window open with a crowbar, sending tons of dust airborne. He handed everyone flashlights and we entered the estate. The room we climbed into was a small library with a few lonely bookshelves, only streaks of dust housed within the wooden fixtures, not a single book left. Demica pulled out her camera, shoving it into my hands.Bookmark here

“Why me?” Normally, I wasn’t the camera man, I would host the investigative parts alongside Chester.Bookmark here

“You weren’t here the other times we came, so you get to sit this one out. Also, you’re clearly distracted.” Demica turned on the night vision and placed the wireless mics on her and Chester.Bookmark here

“Woman, don’t enter my given space without my permission.” Demica continued setting up unabated, ignoring Chester.Bookmark here

“Keep your voice down. Perry fixed the volume, so we don’t need to yell, right?” Perry nodded as he checked the recording going through on his tablet. With a thumb’s up, he confirmed we were recording properly.Bookmark here

Demica pulled off her jacket and handed me the gun from her waist belt. I hated holding guns, but it was whatever. It was clear that she wanted to look good on camera with her stylish peanut colored, button up blouse, dark blue tight legged jeans and matching boots that were far too fashionable for the work we were doing. Chester glared for a second, then scoffed to Demica’s displeasure. “Heh…woman, are you attempting to garner us views simply by showcasing your good looks? I’ll let you know; I won’t have it! We are based entirely on soul filled content and endlessly top-notch reporting skills!” Bookmark here

Demica looked into the camera’s screen and adjusted her hair. “Thanks for the compliment about my looks. Now then, are you ready?” Chester was aghast at her response, but with both of our hosts in position, we began. “Alright! In 5…4…3…2…1…Hello everyone, Occult Research and Study club member Demica Fitzpatrick here, along with Chester Ramos.”Bookmark here

“Woman, you will refer to me by my official title!”Bookmark here

“No. Also, volume. Anyway, we’re going to explore a local haunt that has showcased a few unknown phenomena recently. We are here…at the Rockwell estate! For those of you who are unaware, the Rockwell estate is best known in this city for being one of the first upper class residences to open its doors to the homeless during the incredibly rough winters of the 1600s, a sanctuary if you will. It wasn’t until 1693 however that it gained another notch on its metaphorical belt, for the rampant speculations of–”Bookmark here

“Witch hunts!!” Chester chimed in, yelling and upsetting Demica who cursed under her breath. “Witch hunting ran rampant during that period, and here, the Rockwell estate was the epicenter! Many of the homeless either disappeared or their bodies were found in the neighboring woods, disfigured, and dismembered! In early 1694 the locals began to suspect the residents of the Rockwell estate, but didn’t act for months. This lasted until the disappearance of a young boy named Stanley Buckman. The locals moved into the estate and apprehended the residents which included the father, Richard Rockwell, the three daughters Mary, Margaret and Martha Rockwell, as well as the mother Nora Rockwell. The home was searched for the boy and for anyone the Rockwell family had taken in, but there was no one! Not a single body was ever found in the estate, despite it being well known by the townsfolk that the family would bring the homeless in out of the cold under the pretense of helping them. Less than a day later, the Rockwell family, in the center of town, were burned alive!”Bookmark here

“We plan on searching this place, to see if any of the recent unknown events have anything to do with the…deceased Rockwell family…and that’s enough. Cut!” Demica sighed and furrowed her brow. “Did you have to cut me off?”Bookmark here

“I was simply jumping in to provide a different flavor to our viewers.” Chester retorted. While they argued, I ran my hand along the dark walls for a door. When I found the doorknob, I opened the threshold slowly and peaked out. The upper floor was vast and empty with the exception of a few chairs and tons of dust.Bookmark here

“I’m surprised this place wasn’t knocked down yet.”Bookmark here

“M-Most likely because it’s considered h-historical.” Teddy said to me. I didn’t see anyone or anything too suspicious, but still felt uneasy. “W-What’s wrong?”Bookmark here

“Nothing…” I exited the library and turned off my flashlight. I didn’t hear anything aside from things off in the distance, which I could just chalk up to being cars or night clubs. With a wave of the hand the others joined me in the hall. “Guys, I really think we should get out of here.” The uneasy feeling was beginning to settle onto my shoulders.Bookmark here

“Fate, we’re already in. Also, volume. If things get bad, I’ve got it.” Demica smiled. I trusted her with a gun, despite my teasing. Her dad trained her to use one, and since she had her glasses on her vision was at least reliable, but that didn’t stop the chills running up and down my spine.Bookmark here

We traversed the grimy, spiderweb laden halls. Teddy kept filming on the secondary camera we had, for b-roll, and I’d have been happy with it; if not for the fact that I was too preoccupied with thoughts of the tall man jumping out from around a corner. The numerous rooms had all been ransacked, nothing but a few old bedsheets and torn drapery. After searching the top floor, we walked down into the foyer. The expansive lobby also laid totally empty. No fixtures or anything.Bookmark here

“This place is barren.” Doing her best at stating the obvious, Demica sighed and turned off her flashlight. “Is this a bust?”Bookmark here

“Perish the thought! I believe we did quite well on the history reading.” Chester seemed dejected.Bookmark here

“We’ll need to redo it. There was a lot of static, and Chester blew out the microphone.” Demica shot Chester a dirty look from what Perry told her. I wasn’t as crestfallen as the others. A boring, uneventful trip was what I’d been hoping for.Bookmark here

“Well, let’s get out of here then!” I pushed for a quick exit and the others seemed to reciprocate.Bookmark here

“Fate may be right…We’ve been here for, what, an hour and a half now? Nothing special. Let’s get some more b-roll and maybe we can stitch something together.” The others started for the stairs, but just as I began to follow along, I felt a heavy and eerie warmth overtake me. When I turned to see what it was my eyes were drawn to a wall in the foyer. The blank wall was slightly discolored, with clumps of dust on the floor swept off to the side. “Fate, what is troubling you, my friend?” Chester had picked up on what I was looking at by following my sight line.Bookmark here

“N-Nothing!” I tried to pull everyone’s attention away from the wall. “Hey, I’ll edit the video together, but we should probably hurry. That way…” Chester ignored me and walked up to the wall. He knocked on it and was met with a hollow thud.Bookmark here

“There’s something behind this wall. Fate, Teddy, lend me assistance.” Teddy aided Chester in tracing their hands along the wall.Bookmark here

“You guys, stop!” Demica shushed me and pulled at my hand to bring back up the camera. I relented and filmed my two friends.Bookmark here

“I think I-I found something.” Teddy dug his fingers into the wall, beginning to splinter and peel, then swung open. “W-Whoa…” Nearly the size of a door, an opening sat before us along with a spiral staircase leading downward into absolute darkness. Chester moved onto the steps slowly with Teddy flanking him.Bookmark here

“Fate, come down here.” Chester whispered to me. When I got in close, an aroma of decaying meat and wax permeated the air, choking me up as I descended. The horror was totally visible even without the camera’s night vision.Bookmark here

Part 5Bookmark here

Mold caked brick walls and the repugnant stench of damp copper made me gag as I walked about the dimly lit room. The only light in the room came from glowing letters inscribed into the walls, in a language I couldn’t understand. Multiple wooden operating tables sat about, tattered with blood, pieces of cloth and wads of matted hair.Bookmark here

“Fate…Fate, are you getting all of this?” I’d forgotten about Chester. Through his long dark bangs, I could see the wonderment in his eyes, meanwhile I was struck with fear. Those letters carved into the walls, I wasn’t sure, but they seemed magical to me. Chester called up to the others to join us down in the basement while I continued to film.Bookmark here

Of the four tables in the basement, two sat broken, while one looked completely untouched. The problem, however, was the one furthest to the back of the room. It sat with a sheet over what appeared to be a body. I inched closer, my curiosity getting the better of me again, without looking around; idiotically, I slipped on a puddle of blood.Bookmark here

As I fell, my hand reached out grasping for anything nearby. I caught one of the tables but still plummeted to the floor, slamming my shoulder into the ground. My wound that held up to that point had slightly torn open again. “Are you okay?” Demica ran up to me; I covered my injury and pulled myself back up.Bookmark here

“I-I’m fine.” Chester pointed toward the table with the supposed body atop it.Bookmark here

“Sorry, Fate! Hand me the camera.” He snatched the camera away from me and got in close to the table.Bookmark here

“Chester…hang on…” I struggled to say whilst wheezing in pain. He threw the sheet off and revealed…a wax body. Completely white, featureless and of indistinguishable sex, the fully sized wax human body laid atop the table motionless.Bookmark here

“What on earth is this?” Chester closed in with the camera. I rushed in, not sure if the thing was alive and would leap to its feet attacking my overly curious friend. As if the universe were laughing at me, I lost my footing again and crashed into Chester causing both of us to knock into the table sending us and the wax body down to the floor.Bookmark here

When my eyes opened, I was face to face with the wax mannequin as it laid atop me. I screamed and threw it off, shattering the body against the wall. My wound had full on reopened and gotten much worse by then. The body’s fingers had gouged deep into my shoulder and tore a gash. A lot of blood started leaking out which drew the other’s immediate concern.Bookmark here

“Fate! What happened?! Are you alright?!” Chester tried to help me to my feet, but just moving was an arduous task. I couldn’t help but groan while pain surged through me. Teddy joined Chester in helping me to my feet and pulled me onto his massive back with ease to carry me.Bookmark here

“I’m…fine, Teddy.” Despite my grandstanding, it was excruciating.Bookmark here

“W-We should go, C-Chester.”Bookmark here

“You are correct, Teddy. We’ll worry about this place another time.” Chester walked behind Teddy making sure I wouldn’t fall, while Demica rushed up the stairs first. “Perry! What are you doing? Let’s go! Stop filming!” Surprisingly, Chester got actually angry when he noticed Perry still filming the wax body. He’d picked up the camera that Chester dropped and was intensely focused on our discovery.Bookmark here

“But this is big, man. We never get anything good and this is our first break!”Bookmark here

“Fate’s hurt! Come on! Woman, call your younger brother!” Demica didn’t answer as she’d made it all the way up the stairs ahead of us. “Perry, worry about that later! We’re going!” Perry sucked his teeth and followed suit as we made our way out of the Rockwell estate.Bookmark here

Part 6Bookmark here

Chester inspected my wound as we sat in the back of his van. He pulled out his first aid kit while Teddy brought up videos on his phone about how to properly bandage a shoulder. “Teddy, thanks, but It’s not as bad as it looks.” Demica glared at me, while Perry looked through the footage on his camera.Bookmark here

“Yeah, but that’s because you somehow managed to bandage yourself up by the time we reached my van.” Chester responded, clearly suspicious. “How long has it been like this?”Bookmark here

“Not long enough to heal, clearly.” My joke to break the tension didn’t go over well, as all I got were aggravated stares.Bookmark here

“Seriously?!” Demica chimed in, her face turning red with anger. “First the scar on your neck and now your shoulder… are you a pit fighter now or something?”Bookmark here

“Pfft! Yeah right! Don’t I look like the exact definition of a tough guy.” I said in jest. “I thought it healed up enough, is all. It’s nothing to worry about.” There was only but so many times I could use that excuse, and for a second, I could see everyone shot me dirty looks as they must’ve been getting sick of it. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to ruin the night.”Bookmark here

“Would you have informed us of your wound; we’d have not ventured forth with you in tow this evening. Tomorrow, we can finish investigating, so long as the police don’t make it here before us. You won’t be accompanying us, of course.” Chester spoke in such a matter of fact way that I felt I’d get shut down regardless of my argument.Bookmark here

“Just…be careful. All that stuff in the basement looked weird.”Bookmark here

“That’s true, but don’t worry we will be careful. We’ve never come across anything such as that body before. Perry got some good shots, so I’ll be able to look into them on the computer. Maybe I’ll be able to decipher the meaning behind those glyphs!” Chester began chuckling to himself. “Do you wish to visit the hospital, my friend?” He asked after finishing up a surprisingly decent bandaging job.Bookmark here

“No. I can take care of it. Don’t have the money for another doctor’s visit this month.” (If it’s like before, maybe it’ll heal up fast. I just need to rest.)Bookmark here

“Then I’ll drive you to your house. Is your mother - is Ms. June home?”Bookmark here

“Probably. I’ll sneak past her.” We filed into Chester’s van and drove onto the highway to get me home faster. Chester’s van was older than any of us and we’d always wondered when the shaggy, 80s vehicle would break down, but it never did. The van belonged to his father and had seen much better days, but since Chester did a meticulous job of maintaining it, there were never any serious problems. Being a group of young people, driving around in a van, and being in the Occult Research and Study club brought about some unwanted comparisons to a certain group of mystery solving youths from a certain cartoon. It didn’t seem to bother the others nearly as much as it bothered me.Bookmark here

The beautiful dark blue night sky whizzed by, as the noise of cars, clubs, and construction off in the distance, crafted a melody of the inner city. My heart began filling up with serenity, forgetting my wound…and even Anesha, I relished in the peace of riding with my friends. A moment of respite that left far too quickly. That dream, traveling around, alongside my close friends, seeing unknown and special places, seemed like it was a dream coming to the end.Bookmark here

When we finally reached the back alley of my complex, Teddy attempted to help me get out of the van. “Dude, a-are you a-alright?”Bookmark here

“I’m fine. I should be able to make it the rest of the way by myself.” I reassured. The alley had a long stretch of the parking lot that was rarely traveled by anyone, so my hope was that I wouldn’t attract any attention.Bookmark here

“Make sure you call us and let us know you’re alright.” Demica spoke with genuine concern. Chester, however yelled with a goofy tone akin to a cartoon character.Bookmark here

“Make sure to contact all of us! As soon as you reenter your domicile! Should you not, then, I shall return with all the fury and strength of one hundred-” Demica put her hand over his mouth and shushed him.Bookmark here

“It’s nearly 3am, you moron. Keep it down. Bye, Fate.” Everyone waved goodbye as they all drove off down the road.Bookmark here

Breathing a sigh of relief, except for myself, no one was hurt. That basement was absolutely a problem. The next time I saw Anesha, I’d make her aware of it for sure. That’s what I thought as I noticed a figure off in the distance slowly approaching. It looked slightly misshapen, making my skin crawl as it shuffled in my direction.Bookmark here

(What the hell is that? Wait. Anesha?) I remembered before, underneath the tunnel in the park. (That was Anesha back then, right?). I started to get in close. “Anesha…I…um. I need to talk with you about…” I stopped dumbfounded at the sight before me.Bookmark here

The broken wax mannequin from before stood in front of me, put back together with red, pulsing veins. It cracked open a wide jaw and spoke… “Mmmm-oo-r-r-rr-e!”Bookmark here

End of chapter 4Bookmark here

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