“So Not Looking”
Spooky was giddy with anticipation. Every concession was made to make Spooky comfortable before the midnight ritual, which he thought was very hospitable of Bill. Spooky also volunteered his pendant and mobile phone to play his part properly; after all, alerting the authorities while sacrificing children just wouldn’t do.
To prepare for the ritual, Bill had Spooky placed into a room they called the Preparation Chamber (which was essentially a narrow closet with an overhead light and a wooden chair inside). A long, silken white shirt had been left for Spooky to wear. He imagined what another child would have thought, being made to wait before their impending doom (trying to get into the mood and all), but it was all just too cool not to be excited. After putting on the shirt, Spooky sat in the chair and waited for perhaps fifteen minutes, but it felt like an eternity.
Finally, the door opened.
“It’s time,” the Third Minion said. “Are you prepared?”
With a grin, Spooky nodded. His happy expression seemed to disturb the minion a bit.
The doors to an old, open-faced elevator were open. Inside were the two other minions Spooky had met earlier, still dressed in black robes. Bill himself, seated comfortably in his wheelchair and dressed in red robes that matched his bow tie, smiled pleasantly as Spooky was led onto the lift.
The Third Minion drew the door shut behind them and pressed a large button on the side to start the decent.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Spooky wisecracked.
The Third Minion shushed him. Bill merely chuckled.
Spooky looked around as the elevator traveled downward. The First Minion carried the “book of the dead” while the Second Minion carried a sacrificial knife (presumably one with a collapsing blade) upon a silvery pillow.
Once the secret elevator cleared the floors between the attic and the cellar (“secret” because it was enclosed not to be seen from the main floors), the so-called cellar was revealed. More like an underground cathedral, wooden chandeliers lit up a stone chamber dug thirty feet down into the foundation of the mansion. There was a fire already going in an enormous, ornate fireplace that bathed the chamber in an orange flickering light. Doors to other rooms were on either side of the fireplace, and a stone spiral stairway curled up from the chamber floor, around the elevator, and up into an enclosed hallway. Spooky thought there must have been a secret door out (or in), probably in the foyer under the grand staircase.
In the center of the room was a dark pit with a raised stone wall like an old well, capped with a metal grating with openings too small for Spooky to have poked his head in. There were four heavy rings, each set into the top of the masonry ringing the pit, perfectly arranged to bind a sacrifice. Tied to each ring was a small length of rope.
After the elevator came to a stop, the Third Minion motioned for Spooky to step out and toward the grated pit. Spooky complied solemnly, walking the way he would imagined a choir boy at a Catholic church would march down an isle, then turned silently towards Bill as he reached the pit. Bill in turn wheeled himself out between the fireplace and the pit, creating a powerful image as the flames roared up behind him. The Third Minion took a stance beside Spooky while the other two stood on either side of Bill.
“The book,” Bill commanded.
The First Minion placed the book open to a marked page into Bill’s lap. He looked over the text, then motioned to the Third Minion.
“The offering,” Bill commanded.
“Hop up,” the Third Minion whispered to Spooky. Complying, Spooky climbed onto the grate and laid himself down on his back with his hands folded across his stomach. The minion placed Spooky’s hands to his sides instead. Looking to Bill, the Third Minion indicated one of the rope rings. Bill looked to Spooky, lying calm and prone without a care in the world, and merely shook his head with a grin.
“The instrument,” Bill commanded.
The Second Minion marched the pillow and knife over the Third Minion, who in turn took the knife, held it lengthwise with both hands in a sort of presentation and awaited further instruction.
With a hand on the book as if swearing an oath, Bill began to speak.
“My minions,” he said indicating each of them, “and honored guest,” he said with a nod to Spooky. “Like my grandfather and his son before, we gather this night because of its traditions and its promise of power. We offer this innocent life to the Dark Ones, those ancient and old who will rule once more as they did before mortals such as we rose to poison this Earth.”
“That’s kind of harsh,” Spooky whispered to the Third Minion. The minion put his index finger to his lips to shush Spooky in response to the comment, then smirked just a bit.
Bill then began to speak in a different language, one Spooky didn’t recognize. Bill seemed to be asking questions, and in the same language, the minions would answer in unison. The fire began to swell in the fireplace, and a chilling breeze started to waft up through the pit Spooky was laying on top of. The chamber vibrated as periodic crashes of thunder struck the grounds outside. The longer Bill read, the more intense he became, and the more the elements seemed to answer in kind.
Spooky smiled. Even the special effects were cool.
The mysterious, unseen clock began to ring out again, presumably for midnight. Bill’s reading ceased as he pointed to the Third Minion.
The minion took the knife in one hand and pressed down on Spooky’s shoulder with the other.
For a moment, Spooky could see the Third Minion’s eyes looking down at him. There was doubt.
Spooky nodded reassuringly to him, whispering, “Do it.”
“Now!” Bill commanded. The knife fell decisively, buried into Spooky’s chest up to the hilt, stopped by his sternum from penetrating further.
The Third Minion frowned, then looked toward Bill.
Spooky blinked, then added, “Ow.”
The minion looked back down at Spooky.
“I don’t think the blade collapsed,” Spooky observed.
The minions all looked to their master in confusion. Bill himself was wide-eyed with his mouth agape.
“Impossible!” Bill cried out. “Is he impure?”
“I’m not impure,” Spooky replied, sitting up with the knife still sticking out his chest. “Just not alive.”
“That’s not a problem for you, is it, Bill?” Spooky added with a grin.
“You fools!” Bill scolded his minions, but he looked more terrified than angry, and with good reason.
The steadily growing breeze up through the pit grate beneath Spooky became a full gale, pushing Spooky off the grate and into the cellar floor. Dark smoke started seeping out from the flue above the fireplace and out from under the doors on either side of it, thickening as though alive. The First Minion screamed without warning.
Producing Spooky’s phone and pendant from an unseen pocket, the Third Minion pressed the items into Spooky’s hands. “There’s a secret door at the top of the staircase,” he instructed. Taking Spooky by the shoulders and looking him directly in the eyes, he added, “Don’t look back.”
“Isn’t this a little out of character for you?” Spooky asked.
Then Bill started screaming uncontrollably, a sound which erupted into gurgles like someone being drowned. Spooky turned his head to see, but the Third Minion pulled his head back toward him before he saw anything.
Suddenly aware of the seriousness of his situation, Spooky nodded and complied.
The Third Minion started laughing maniacally as he released Spooky’s shoulder and began to fall backwards. Either that or something was dragging him backwards.
The stairs were too long on the outside to take two at a time, but without a railing, he didn’t want to be too close to the center edge where he might fall. Climbing as quickly as he could, the screams below sounded more like guttural laughs, the way he imagined demons might sound as they tortured someone. For a moment, he wondered how he would ever be able to forget a sound so horrible.
The top of the stair ended in a wall with a small light to see by, likely to keep it from showing through on the outside. Something sounded like it was coming up the stairs behind him, and for the first time in his life, Spooky was at a loss to imagine what it might actually look like. In his mind, he repeated the same thing over and over: don’t look.
Unable to find any mechanism or a regular doorknob, Spooky finally shoved the wall outwardly in the direction he best guessed opened into the foyer, and to his happy surprise, it opened. Spooky spilled out into the room just as he heard the secret door snap back shut. When he turned to look, it was almost impossible to tell a door was even there. Wait… was there a door?
“Spencer!” Mrs. Price yelled out. The chaperone looked quite upset with him.
“You don’t have to yell,” Spooky answered, still picking himself up off the floor. “I’m right here.”
“Where have you been? All the other kids are in the other room, and you missed out on the candy. Did you even try to find any keys?”
“Um, Mrs. Price..?” Spooky tried to interrupt.
“And what’s with this knife sticking out of your shirt? Were you trying to scare the others? Go and take that off immediately and I don’t want to see it out again.”
“Mrs. Price!” Spooky yelled. “We have to leave! Everyone has to get out of here. Now!”
“There’s…” Spooky then noticed the portraits on the South wall of the foyer. As he stared, the third painting began to fade, looking like the pictures on the walls in that room, the secret room in the… where had he seen those?
“Spencer?” Mrs. Price called out to try to get his attention. “Why do we have to leave?”
Everything about the evening was starting to cloud in Spooky’s mind. He was only able to dimly recall something about the empty pictures on the wall of all the children that came to the mansion before him, children that no one knew existed. No one would ever miss them… miss who?
“Spencer?!” Mrs. Price said louder.
“Why is that portrait empty?” Spooky asked, pointing at the wall.
As if on cue, the butler-looking guy he had spoken to earlier happened to be walking by. “Oh, that was to be for the son of the second owner, but he never had any children. The mansion has stood empty ever since his death fifty years ago.”
Spooky shook his head. Something wasn’t right, but it all seemed correct.
“Spencer?” Mrs. Price said again, trying to sound sympathetic but failing in any way to sound maternal. “Please go take that off and join the other children if you’re done crying wolf.”
Nodding, Spooky went to where the butler-looking guy had indicated the bathroom was. Inside by himself, he stared at his reflection in the mirror. Something had happened that night (the knife in his chest was the proof), but he couldn’t seem to recall how it got there. It took both hands and several attempts to dislodge it, but he finally removed the blade. Not knowing what else to do with it, Spooky cleaned the stickiness off (he didn’t really bleed) and carefully wrapped it in a piece of the white shirt so he could put it into his overnight bag without cutting anything. He knew from experience that the wound would heal while he slept, but it still felt weird that he couldn’t remember exactly when the wound occurred or where the knife had come from.
The next morning after everyone had gotten up, stuffed their mouths full of donuts and orange juice, and climbed back onto the bus to go home, Spooky sat in a seat in the back staring at the front of mansion. He remembered wanting to see the creepy things inside and recalled doing so, but something told him that there was really something scary there, even if he couldn’t remember what it was.
One thing was clear to him if nothing else was: memories were missing, and he had the evidence to prove it. He was aware that something like that didn’t happen accidentally, and he was sure that some thing inside the mansion was responsible. It wouldn’t be today, but Spooky knew that one day he would return to deal with whatever was hidden within Chesterfield Mansion, one way or another.
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