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Excerpt from (another) work-in-progress

The couple were almost to the Pattersons' front door by now.  As they approached they plotted in the bone-chilling cold, raising their voices to be heard above the wind.  "Okay," Meredith said.  "When we get up there you buzz the doorbell and I'll keep the front glass door open to block the wind."

 

As they neared the darkened porch, however, Meredith pointed. "Hey. Is the door open? In this god-awful cold?"

 

Harold squinted, then shrugged. "Huh. I think it is," he said.

 

Meredith pushed past him. "Good," she said. "Easier for us to get inside, out of this cold, and sit in front of their fireplace until they're ready to go."

 

"Wait for me." Harold said, and followed her inside. He turned around and pulled the glass door shut, then hesitated and looked back across the rolling front yard and out towards the mountains. They really did have a spectacular view of Mist Rise, up here, from this vantagepoint. It was an awesome panorama, he grudgingly admitted to himself. They could see everything, even the lake. Even the island chapel out in the middle of the lake.

 

As he stared he noticed also that the purple and pink hues that had stained the sky earlier while they were driving into the Estates had all but vanished by now. The chapel and the trees on the tiny island in the lake were purely black. They stood as stark dark silhouettes just barely visible against the slightly lighter, ice- and snow-covered surface of the frozen lake behind them. The view of the trees and the chapel's steeple made it seem like a row of knives were balanced on their handles, all pointing up to the heavens, as if preparing for some celestial war.  

 

"Are you coming today?" Meredith asked with a sigh from the hallway. He turned away from the windowed front door and found her looking back at him with that face she wore that just seemed to say "What are you waiting for, dumbass?". 

 

'I'm coming, I'm coming."

 

He watched her as she resumed walking down the silent hall. That was when he noticed- it was quiet.

 

"Sally? John?  Yoohoo... anybody home?"  

 

Ahead, as Meredith slightly-drunkenly (thank God she wouldn't be driving… she needed a second DWI like she needed a hole in her head) wobbled through the open doorway into the chilly house, she flicked on the light panel and called inside again.  "Yoo-hoo?  Anybody-"

 

As the switch clicked and the lights flooded the interior of the foyer, Meredith stumbled backwards into Harold. He reached out to steady her.  "Meredith," he whispered harshly, expecting her to whirl around and offer apologies. But before he could chastise her, one of her heels dug into the toe of his left wingtip shoe. "Oww! What in the-" he said angrily, but was interuppted as Meredith, whose back still blocked him from seeing any further into the house, began to scream. She uttered no words, no intelligible sounds.  Just a wail, with a preening and fluctuating high pitch that made his hairline feel as though it were being pulled back over his skull.  "Meredith!"  He grabbed her again by the shoulders, seeking to make her stop, but even as he twisted her towards him, she wriggled free and bolted past him, running into him and sending him staggering backwards against the hallway wall behind him. He slammed painfully into an expensive looking mirror. 

 

"No-" she screamed aloud again, but the rest of what she yelled was lost as Harold felt the mirror behind him swung to the left once, then to the right… and then drop in an instant from its hanging nail. He reached for it but he was too late and even if he could have caught it, it was so heavy that it still woudl have hit the floor and dragged him down with it.  It crashed into a thousand pieces on the hallway stone floor. Stunned, Harold looked down at the silvery slivers sparkling in the incandescent light, registering this for a split second, then turned and looked after his wife.

 

He was mortified. How much was that mirror worth?

 

"What the hell is going on?" he said angrily, as he watched Meredith run crazily back through the house, and stumble out the front door through which they'd just entered only moments before, and run back out into the freezing cold, weaving in crazy patterns and hugging her body as she cried. "Meredith! Come back here!"

 

He started to go after her. Something was very, very wrong. 

 

Although his wife continued to scream outside...the house was still, now eerilyl, silent.

 

Yes, something was wrong. But something… another, different sort of something… told him to turn around and, go ahead... take a look. Peek back inside, just for a second.  That other Something told him to step forward and look around that corner and find out what all the fuss was about.  After all, whatever waited in that kitchen had thrown his wife into a freaked out Tarantella in a matter of seconds. He needed to know what she saw. 

 

He had to look.He knew that he shouldn't. He knew that by now. He knew that whatever he saw would be etched in his memory forever.  

 

Whatever Meredith had seen had horrified her. 

 

And yet, he had to know. Just a quick peek. He could take a quick peek, and then run away.

 

He steeled himself, but before he could force himself to move he was assaulted not by a visual image, but rather by a smell- dour and moldy, almost salty and coppery- it smelled like a fainter version of the foul sea air he'd often had the displeasure of inhaling back when he'd been a young man living in Swampscott on the North Shore above Boston. A smell that permeated the sea air whenever massive slicks of dead red algae would wash ashore in the neighboring city of Lynn. 

 

For some reason as the smell in the house reached his nostrils, it snapped him back instantly to Lynn, and the silly limerick that the barflies in Lynn would invariably sing whenever a tourist unwisely stopped by and explained they were from out of town.

 

"Oh-ho, you don't say!" they'd sing in glee, laughing amongst themselves. "You know what they say about this old, foul-smelling little harbor town, don't you?" And then they'd break into chorus:

 


Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin, 

You Never Go Out… the Way You Came In.

 

 

It only took three or four seconds for these smells and thoughts to course through his mind.  He suddenly once again became aware of the sound of his wife screaming and crying in the background. He knew he should go to her.

 

But instead, the gravitational force pulled him around the corner, just to take a quick look.

 

He realized as he touched the doorway that his hands were trembling.

 

As his eyes took in the scene he swallowed a gulp of air, barely stifling the urge to throw up.

 

The familiar white kitchen of the house was… it was nowhere to be found.  It had been replaced by a white and crimson red abstract painting monstrosity stretching out before him, as if someone had dipped a jagged paintbrush into red paint and slashed it across the floor, walls, ceilings, and appliances, Pollack style.  

 

He struggled to assimilate it. His friend- his friend's body- lay on the once white tiled floor in the middle of a circle drawn in blood— John was naked, stripped, with hands and feet flayed out like Da Vinci's depiction of the Vitruvian Man.  A little further on, Janey- Janey, for God's sake!- was hung from a chandelier by her wrists, her head slumped forward between her shoulders, her hair covering her breasts, her bloody body perfectly still, as if she'd been captured in a still photograph mid-flight as she dove into a pool. 

 

Except she was frozen mid-dive above a pool of horror and blood and Death waiting beneath her.

 

Harold fell backwards and simply stared for several moments...then he scrambled to his feet and ran as fast as he could towards the wailing howls of his wife still clamoring in the darkness. He wanted to be anywhere but here.