Excerpt from The Callingwood Suicides
I was the first to step forward, and a disconcerting thought crossed my mind as the door slid open. There was no rust, dust, or dirt on the door and it opened without sound or hesitation. It was as though the hinges had been lovingly taken care of despite the state of the house. The interior had not received the same treatment. Broken plates, shattered barrels, and torn fabrics were strewn about the floor. The sickly wet stench of mold clung to my nostrils and the air itself felt colder inside. The shack was separated into four rooms with a hallway running through the center. On the right side was a modest kitchen that connected to the master bedroom. A living room that took up the majority of the left side with a much smaller guest bedroom behind it.
“Look at this,” Mark exclaimed as he stepped into the living room, shattering the silence that had fallen over us. Will and I both jumped in shock, but he took no notice. He was busy examining a newspaper he had found lying on an old coffee table.
“What’s that?” Will asked, taking the paper from Mark.
I scurried over as well, “ When is it from? Maybe it’ll tell us when this place was built.”
“Doubt it.” Will replied. “Check it out.” He passed the newspaper to me with disregard.
It was hard to read. Much of it had been obscured by dark brown stains. A chunk was missing from the top half of the paper, leaving only a small segment of an article. It read,
- have not been able to determine the perpetrators of the crime but authorities are investigating all possibilities. Regardless of Awley’s background, authorities say, that what happened at the Awley estate is both a crime and a tragedy. Investigations are still underway at this time.
“Awley?” Will wondered allowed. We examined the paper. It was full of mad scribbles, blocky and shakily written.
“WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ME? WHO IS AWLEY? WHO ARE YOU?”
There was nothing on the walls except for creeping vines. No trinkets, or gifts, or knick-knacks that might imply someone had once called this place home. The onslaught of nature had consumed the house.
“Words,” Will murmured. He was examining the vines that twisted around an old brick fireplace.
“What?” I called, busy trying to decode the origin of the newspaper.
“There’s something written here, help me out,” He called, straining to move the vines.
Together we cleared away the plants and scrawled there in block letters were the words: “CAN’T FIND IT. DON’T HAVE IT. LEAVE ME ALONE.” Then, in thin, clean letters just below that was what appeared to be a response: “GROO. GROO GROO.” Unsure of any meaning they could have, we were left to hunt for other clues that might give us a clearer picture. I continued to search the living room, Will focused his attention on the bedrooms, and Mark continued his examination in the kitchen.
Before long Mark called out, “Guys! I found something!” Will and I rushed into the kitchen. It was a sickly room, with green wallpaper. The iron stove was rusted completely over and had long since collapsed in on itself. A crumbling table sat in one corner, and Mark stood in the opposite. He was pulling back a wretched piece of wallpaper, exposing a tiny room that contained a rickety wooden ladder travelling down.
“Right, because that’s normal,” Will quipped as he entered. He stopped beside me, with apprehension and said, “I don’t suppose I can convince you to turn back?”
“There are three of us, right? Besides, I don’t think anyone actually lives here, otherwise there wouldn’t be so much dust, right?” My logic held up by virtue of the fact that we were already in an excited state, and after deciding the ladder was sturdy enough, I went down first.
The basement was surprisingly spacious but was thick with an unpleasant metallic odor. The front of the room was packed high with chairs, old candles, and hoard of small mementos that bespoke a lifetime long past. Wooden beams and rolls of the wallpaper had been stacked along the walls on dusty shelves. Across one shelf I noted streaks of the same dark brown substance that stained the newspaper upstairs. My eyes followed a long thick smear as it continued along the wall into the room. The farther the room went the more streaks could be seen, all travelling to a spot in the very back where they became handprints. There, on the floor below, was a round stone basin with odd, archaic symbols on it. Runic text, stars, half moons, eyes, and skulls. Five bowls were arranged around the central basin, each empty save for one, which contained a dark, round object that I couldn’t really make out.
“What the hell is this place?!” Mark hissed.
“Some sort of torture chamber?” Will wondered aloud.
“We need to call the poli-” Mark’s voice trailed off mid sentence. I glanced over and saw what had quieted him.
Eric Phillips. He must’ve been crouched in one of the dark corners of the room. He stepped forward into the thin beams of light that shone through the ceiling from the room above. As he came fully into view , we could see that his body had been decimated. The skin from his arms and torso had been entirely removed, exposing muscle and bone to the dusty air. The desperate pumping of open veins sent blood pouring down his body in sheets. Lidless eyes stared at me as he reached out an exposed skeletal hand. The stench of blood was so great that I could feel bile rising in my throat, mixing with the putrid air to create a horrible flavor.
A raspy moan broke from his lips and his contorted face became a mask of deep pleasure. He examined his own hand with hideous wonder. The fibers of his muscles stretched and contorted with each twitch of his mutilated hand as he casually reached for a bit of loose skin and began to pull. He didn’t break eye contact the entire time, just stared right at me, while peeling a strip of flesh all the way from his elbow to his shoulder.
A grating, white noise filled my ears. It was like a siren was blazing in my skull, deafening all thought. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak. He tilted his head to the side and rasped,
“What a terrible dream. You should wake... up.”