House of Chaos
“It’s just a house. What harm can a house do? Besides splinters and falling plaster?”
Six young people stood just outside the ancient ironwork gates leading up to the equally ancient manor. The left hand gate hung slightly off its rusty hinges and the chain that closed the two was equally rusted and pitted to laughability, but strangely enough the gates themselves were as rust free as the day they had been installed. From their position at the gates, the youths could see what must have once been a marvelous garden. A huge tree still overshadowed the yard, if it could be called such, but plants of every conceivable, and inconceivable, shape and size ran rampant around it in a twisted mess of living and dead, growing and dying.
Charlene was about to repeat her opinion of the whole matter when Michael chuckled.
“Amityville was just a house, too, I guess.”
“Amityville was exaggerated. All movies exaggerate and twist the stories they’re supposedly based on.” Charlene defended herself.
“What about those two lions in Africa? The Ghost and . . .”
“The Darkness.” Mira finished her twin brother’s example. “They didn’t dare exaggerate or change a single fact in that one. To do so would negate everything. ‘There are more things’ and all that.” Mira didn’t even have to finish her favorite Shakespearean quote, and personal motto. Of the six caught in that prickly stage between child and adult, she was the most fascinated by what could not be explained. But even she felt a shiver of primal fear creep up her spine. This was no normal house.
“Africa may have strange things,” Charlene commented, “and the wilds of South and Central America, or even Mexico and Siberia, but not the good ol’ U S of A, not middle Americana just down the street.”
“Where else would it be?” Kevin asked. “I mean, if there, why not here?” Kevin was something of a scholar, easily in the top ten of their class. He was not known for his courage so his presence in the group was not exactly of his choice.
Todd, requisite football player, and Mira’s boyfriend, put one arm on Kevin’s shoulders, and the other on Mira’s. “Are we going to stand here jabbering all day, or are we going to get this show on the road?” It had been his idea to make this nighttime visit to the old house everyone’s parents routinely warned their children away from.
“Yeah,” Sean said, “I want to get this over with as quickly as possible.”
“What, are you scared?” Todd teased.
Sean looked at him, eyes dead. “Yes, and if your brains hadn’t been shoved out your shoes by all those hits on the field, you would be too.”
Todd laughed dismissively and moved forward, pulling an iron-headed mallet from the waistband of his jeans. One good swing smashed the lock and he watched the chain tumble to the ground with a rattling clank, the left hand gate swinging open. “Well, boys and girdles, it’s time.” He was the first one through, whistling a mocking little tune. The others followed, some more reluctantly than others. Mira pushed the right hand gate open as she and her brother walked through side by side.
The house itself was a faintly sinister, slightly whimsical hodgepodge of conflicting styles and eras. On either side of the stone steps leading up to the front entrance were a pair of gargoyle statues. Kevin paused to examine the winged cat-like creatures. After a moment of study he stifled an exclamation, pulling a pocket flashlight out to shine on the stone. “Holy . . . guys, look at this. This is no stone or concrete I’ve ever seen.” Mira walked over to look at the strange mix of red and blue stone, the tiny bits of color seeming to move before her eyes.
Todd snorted in disgust. “Geez, bookworm, we’ll never get inside if you keep having conniptions over some little statue.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Sean murmured quietly.
Charlene looked at him. “Did you say something?” Sean shook his head and she pushed forward, putting her hands on the massively carved doors, the left a red swirl and the right a blue one. “I have got a test tomorrow and I want to get this wild goose chase over with.” She pushed the unlocked doors open. “An abandoned house is nothing to be so scared about.” Her voice faltered into silence because the entry hall looked anything but abandoned.
Lit candles gleamed from wall sconces and from large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Below them was a table set with a veritable feast. Gold and silver serving plates and bowls of fruit were arranged in the most appetizing manner, complete with greenery for decoration. Todd pushed Charlene forward into the hall and slowly they all entered the House, looking around carefully for any sign of human inhabitants.
“Hello?” Mira called out. “Anybody there?”
Todd snorted in disgust. “Get real, no one’s lived in this house for longer than even my parents can remember.”
Sean’s face had an almost haunted look. “Oh, this house in inhabited alright, but not by anything we would know.”
Mira glanced over at her brother for a moment and then at Sean, an unspoken question dying on her lips as Todd roughly dropped his arm around her shoulders, pushing her towards the table. He held a half-eaten piece of fruit in the other hand. “Come on, babe, you gotta try this stuff, it’s like nothing you’ve ever eaten in your life.”
Charlene nodded from where she stood at the table, sampling dishes here and there. “This stuff is great. I don’t know who set this spread, but whoever he is, he’s got great taste.” She picked up an apple and tossed it to Kevin, who managed to catch it before it fell. “Woohoo,” she exclaimed. “Looks like this is going to be a beneficial expedition after all. Kevin’s actually catching things.” There was a round of scattered applause and Kevin dodged off to one side, taking a bite out of the fruit, blushing hotly.
Mira thought something felt out of place, but she wasn’t sure what it was. Sean looked more and more nervous as Todd and Charlene coaxed Michael to try some of the refreshments. He kept glancing back to the door when suddenly the doors swung shut with a loud bang, catching Michael with a bite just inches away from his mouth. Sean turned pale and drew a shaky breath in the silence. “Well, it’s begun.”
“What?” Mira finally asked, “what’s begun? Why have you been acting so much like a scared rabbit?”
“He’s just a wimp, that’s all.” Todd laughed. “No need to be scared, things fall on their own all the time, the doors just weren’t balanced right on the hinges, that’s all.”
Michael set down the fork he was holding, morsel upon it untasted. “Well, we’re here, is this enough for you, Todd?”
Todd shook his head. “Aw, come on, surely you don’t want to leave so soon? I’m thinking there’s hidden treasure in here somewhere, some old lady’s life savings in jewelry or something hidden away ’cause she didn’t trust the banks or something.”
Charlene laughed, “Yeah, and maybe there’s a library somewhere so we can drop off the bookworm and let him swoon with joy.”
Kevin blushed again, he was unused to such attention from a female. “I – I wouldn’t doubt it. Old houses usually have libraries.”
“Well, come on then, let’s go look.” She grabbed his arm and virtually pulled him out of the hall and down one of the corridors branching off from it.
Sean sighed. “Sure, split up, that’s what it wants. Rule number one, never split up.” he murmured.
Todd looked at him, “Aw, come on, this isn’t going to be so bad. Maybe it’s having a good night.”
Michael and Mira looked back and forth between them. “What do you mean, Todd?” Michael asked.
“Oh, Sean’s been here before. When we were kids. Apparently a couple of his friends never came out, but I think there was some old tramp in here at that point that’s been chased away since.”
Mira looked at Sean, sympathy suddenly welling in her eyes. “Oh my. . . Sean, why didn’t you tell us?”
Sean looked at her. “I tried.” He sighed and glanced to where Charlene and Kevin left. “I better go find them.” He smiled at Mira. “I hope you’re a virgin.” Then he left.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Michael asked, glancing at his sister who shrugged her ignorance. “I better go keep an eye on him. Catch you later.” Then he, as well, left out the left-hand corridor.
Todd pulled Mira towards the right-hand corridor. “Come on, I want to do some exploring and I don’t want to run into them any time soon.”
Mira allowed herself to be pulled. She had to talk to Todd, but she didn’t know how to tell him what she had to say.
— — —
Somewhere in the House a spider made its way across a carpet woven with leaves and butterflies and birds in flight. In the manner of its kind, the spider was deadly, endowed with a poison that would still its prey so it could feed more effectively. While it walked across the carpet, one of the birds raised its head and snapped up the delicious morsel, returning then to its place in the woven carpet. No one ever heard the arachnid scream of pain and terror.
— — —
“What’s the deal with Charlene? She’s never been like that with Kevin before?” Mira managed to ask after they’d wandered through a few empty rooms.
Todd looked at her from where he was exploring a desk. “Hmm? Oh, Charlene, well, we decided it was time we did something about Kevin. Maybe a little sex’ll bring him out of the books.”
Mira looked stunned. “You mean you are toying with his affections . . .” She looked angry.
Todd laughed and wrapped his arms around her. “Hey, it worked with you, didn’t it?”
Mira looked at him, sorrow and pain in her eyes. “So I’m just another toy to you?”
“Never, but you have to admit, there are no problems that sex can’t fix, and goodness knows I spent enough time on you.”
Mira was hurt, but she had to tell him. “Well, it looks like you finally got caught in your own juices.” Her voice was low, sad, without a hint of malice. Todd looked at her quizzically. She looked up into his face. “I’m pregnant.”
Todd dropped his arms from around her and took a step back. “No, you’re joking. You’ve got to be joking.”
She shook her head. “I wish I were. I waited to tell you until I was absolutely sure that it wasn’t just a false alarm.”
“No, this isn’t happening. It isn’t mine. You whore! You’ve been sleeping with someone else and giving me this innocent shitbird face!”
Mira began crying. “No, Todd, there’s no one else, the baby is yours.”
“No, no, no!” He began backing away from her with every refusal and finally broke and ran from the room in terror as Mira sank to her knees in tears.
— — —
Somewhere along the way, Charlene had lost Kevin. She knew she should have kept a hand on him the entire way. Now she was going to lose valuable time tracking him down again, time she was going to need if she was going to seduce him before the end of the night.
When Todd had brought the suggestion to her she hadn’t liked it at first, seducing the school bookworm in hopes that he’d start showing human traits, well, it hadn’t appealed to her until she’d thought about it for a while. And she had to admit, there wasn’t a man on the planet who could resist her charms. After all, she’d been seducing Todd away from Mira on a regular basis. Uppity little bitch, acting all sweet and innocent, like she was better than everyone else because she’d decided to hold off on sex. Well, Todd got her. Now if he’d only leave her ass like he should have once she’d succumbed. . .
Charlene turned a corner and found herself in a ballroom with a real wooden floor polished to a shine and lit chandeliers hanging from the gilt and painted ceiling. A man stood in the center of the room dressed in a very elegant red suit from, to Charlene’s untutored eye, sometime in the faerie tale age. He was tall and breathtakingly handsome, with long black hair and piercing eyes. He walked forward and she found herself entering the floor to meet him, and discovered that she was wearing a ballgown that was at least as faerie tale as he was. He held his hands out to her and she took them with a smile, allowing herself to be pulled into a dance, music coming from seemingly nowhere. She looked up into his face and smiled, and then lost herself into his eyes.
Charlene never felt herself begin to die, the spell the shade wove was too powerful. He drew upon her life-energy until her body withered and fell to dust on the floor, a dust that was scattered by an errant wind as it blew through the house.
— — —
Kevin wasn’t exactly sure where along the way he lost Charlene, but he wasn’t really surprised. Trust him to bungle his one chance with a willing female. It wasn’t that he liked books more than girls, just that girls were a lot harder to understand than books and so he usually ended up back in his personal library rather than getting back into the social ring for another round. But it wasn’t long before his attention was rather firmly pulled away from his interpersonal difficulties. Right before his eyes was the largest library he had ever seen.
The room alone had to be larger than the entire house, a fact which alone served to weird him out some. Rooms just weren’t bigger than the houses that held them, not in the real world, but from the number of books he could see, he doubted he was in the real world. For several virtually orgasmic moments he simply allowed himself to revel in being in a repository for so much accumulated knowledge, running his hand along the spines of the books. Then he fell to examining titles, and grew more confused by the moment.
The Nature of Chaos by Dr. Alfred Klotzenhoffmeinphalenkeisten
Sex and Lycanthropy by Elodea
Theories of Magic by Maracae
Exorcism for Dummies by Justin Case
Kevin had never heard of most of these writers and the subjects they were discussing grew more and more impossible and esoteric the farther into the library he went. Finally he found a tome that looked interesting, The Nature of Chaos and sat down to begin reading. As he read he noticed that the book was growing larger, or he was growing smaller, and his hands were shrinking and his arms were melding into his sides, until finally he sat upon the page, a small, fairly rotund, red and blue worm with glasses and a necktie.
Then the book was lifted and Kevin found himself looking into the huge face of a dark-haired male. “I’m glad to see you enjoyed my library. Please stay a while, just be careful not to chew up too many pages, they are so difficult to replace.” Then he closed the book and placed it back on the shelf.
— — —
Mira felt something wipe away her tears. She opened her eyes and looked eye to face with a tiny winged being. The tiny was dressed, it seemed in leaves and flower petals and was no taller than nine or ten inches, and happened to be holding a handkerchief, that was promptly offered to Mira, who accepted it, silent with astonishment.
No sooner had she done that then several other tinys appeared, also dressed in little suits of flowers and leaves, and Mira noticed that she was no longer in the empty room that Todd had fled, but in a forest glen with a brilliant full moon overhead lighting everything a silver color. The tinys fluttered around her, playing in her hair and patting her affectionately. The noise of their incomprehensible chatter brought out other beings, all small, all in the nature of faerie tales, who sat around her in obvious acceptance and affection.
She noticed one of the tinys with a bucket of shaved ice and she was taking handfuls of it and scattering it around on her companions. Mira looked confused. “Why are you doing that, little one?” she aksed.
The tiny looked at her as if she had a third eyeball, “Because it’s not snowing. Duh!” Then she continued scattering until all she was doing was sprinkling water, which she did because it was because it wasn’t raining, obviously.
Mira felt for a moment like she’d walked into a page from Alice in Wonderland, and to be honest, she really didn’t mind.
— — —
Something was wrong, and Sean knew it. It had started again. The House had started claiming lives again, and his hours were numbered unless he could find a way to get out of the House. But he didn’t want to abandon his companions, though honestly the only one who could be called a friend was Mira, but she was everybody’s friend.
He turned a corner and found himself face to face with a fiend from Hell, grotesque maws covered in blood, and other fluids he really didn’t want to think about. “Oh shit.”
It looked at him. “So you have returned. You should not have done that.”
— — —
Todd ran, any direction, he really didn’t care which. He just had to get away from Mira, away from a baby he refused to accept as his. He couldn’t have children. He wouldn’t have children. That was just that. Images flooded his mind of his little brother coming home from the hospital, tubes stuck every which way and twisted limbs hidden by the receiving blanket that was sent with him. There had been complications, they said, a genetic abnormality, they said. The tubes would eventually be removed, and he would grow up healthy, but he was always imperfect, imperfect in body, imperfect in mind, and Todd hated him.
But what he most hated was himself. The idea that there could be something imperfect lurking in him somewhere terrified him. And his terror shamed him, and so he worked even harder at being perfect, even though he knew that it was a lie. He knew that he could never be perfect and that if he ever had children then they’d be just like his little brother, just like him.
He launched himself through a doorway and found himself in a moonlit garden of stone paths and Grecian-style statues made pale by the silver light. The statues were all perfect specimens of manhood, each and every one of them, perfect as he was not, perfect as he yearned to be.
He turned a corner and found himself facing a woman, a luminously beautiful woman with dark hair and pale skin. She smiled at him and he found himself smiling back. “Do you like my garden?” she asked.
He nodded. “It is wonderful, but you are even better.” He didn’t know why he felt inclined to such flattery, but he figured it was his well developed instincts where the opposite sex was concerned and so didn’t worry about it.
Evidently it worked, for she blushed and turned her head slightly, as if overcome. It was all a dance, expected moves one after another. He’d been doing this for years in his search for perfection.
“I find myself discomfited.” she murmured.
“Why? You are more beautiful than the moon, why would you be upset?”
“Of all the statues in my garden, none compare to you. You are greater than all of them, a worthy son of your father Adam.” Todd didn’t know how she knew his father’s name was Adam, but he really didn’t care. There was imperfection in his father, though, he had produced his brother, hadn’t he?
“No, I’m imperfect.” It hurt to say it.
She looked at him, uncomprehending. “But I see no imperfection in you. You are the mightiest specimen of a man. Ah, but I have not introduced myself. I am Lillia, and you are?”
“Well, let us see if I cannot convince you of your worth.” She took his had and they went walking.
— — —
“Mira?” a female voice asked incredulously off to one side. Mira looked up to see a blonde, strangely feline, girl about her age looking at her, and Mira almost couldn’t believe her eyes.
“Vanessa? Is that you? What happened to you?” Vanessa was Mira’s best friend from elementary school. She’d moved away a couple years ago, and recently Mira’d stopped getting letters from her.
Vanessa laughed and hugged Mira, scattering tinys every which way. “Yes, it’s me. Life’s gotten a bit strange of late. What in the hell are you doing in the House of Chaos?”
Mira looked confused. “Is that was you call this place? I was about to ask you how you’d gotten here. It’s the old house on Vine. Todd,” there was an odd catch in her voice, “Todd dared us to break in. He seems to think there’s buried treasure somewhere in here.”
“If ever a house were to have buried treasure, this one would be it, but I wouldn’t lay odds that it’d still be treasure if it left the walls.” Vanessa seemed to be almost talking to herself. And that was when Mira noticed the changes that had happened to her friend.
“Vanessa, how did you get fur? And your eyes! And your ears! What has happened to you?”
Vanessa sighed. “It’s a long story. You remember how Wednesday Wolfe wigged out on everyone and then disappeared? She was a number of years ahead of us in school, but the stories were everywhere.” Mira nodded. “Well, the same sort of thing happened to me. I can . . . go places I couldn’t before, and because of that, and because I love cats so much, I’ve sort of become more like one. It’s complicated, but now really isn’t the time to talk about me. How many of you did Todd coerce into coming here?”
“Six, including himself. Well, sorta six. . .”
Vanessa took Mira’s face in her hands. “What do you mean, sorta six? Name them.”
“Well, Todd, Sean, Kevin, Charlene, Michael and me.”
“That’s six, now what do you mean by sorta?”
Vanessa was still for a moment and then enfolded her friend in her arms. “That seventh may have saved your life.” she murmured, then fell to the questions she had to ask. “What happened? I thought we were going to be the last virgin brides.”
Mira hung her head in shame. “It was Todd. He – He just wouldn’t take no for an answer. He kept hounding me, and hounding me, and it just got so I actually felt like I was a mental case for not enjoying my youth. It sorta happened before I could tell him no.”
Vanessa’s face hardened. “Oh really? Does he know about the baby?”
Again Mira’s face reflected utter misery. “I told him but he said that it wasn’t his baby, but there hasn’t been anyone else, I swear . . .”
“Hush, hush, I believe you. Well, I’ll just have to help you out myself. I have some contacts of a few other worlds who might be willing to let you stay with them for a while . . .”
Mira looked utterly confused. Vanessa smiled at her. “I’ll explain it after a while, for now, let’s go find your brother.”
“What about the others?”
“If they aren’t out now, the House has them.”
— — —
Michael was lost. Completely, utterly, and totally lost. He didn’t know where he was, much less where anyone else was. At this point he was just randomly turning corners hoping he was able to find his way out. This house certainly was bigger inside than the outside had indicated. He had a hard time imagining that all this space was really inside the walls of the house.
He felt something soft under his foot and looked down, and almost lost his dinner when he saw all the blood covering his shoes, and the fact that it was some sort of entrails that he had stepped on. Movement down the hallway caught his eye and he followed the path of blood further down, to more entrails, and a few body parts, human body parts, and then he saw Sean, torn limb from limb and somehow still agonizingly alive, looking at him with horror in his eyes from the claws of a beast born of a horror writer’s nightmares as it raised its muzzle to the ceiling and howled.
Michael turned and ran for his life.
— — —
Mira and Vanessa were practically bowled over by Michael’s fear-driven body when he ran into them. His face was pale and his shoes were covered in blood. A howl echoed down the hallway he’d just exited and Vanessa quickly got them back on their feet. “I see you ran into the nastier side of the House.”
“S – Sean, it got Sean. He was torn, . . . all over the place, . . . oh the blood . . .” Michael was rambling hysterically.
Vanessa took a careful look at him and looked at Mira. “Let’s get out of here, now.” Then she led the way.
— — —
A wrong turn down a corridor put them in a moonlit garden, looking at a woman who was pruning the bushes near a statue. She turned and looked at them and hissed in anger and hatred upon seeing Vanessa. “You!” she accused, “I’ll destroy you this time, you daughter of that sanctimonious whore!”
Mira looked up at the statue and saw Todd’s face, and watched as the last human expression was frozen into place by Lillia’s trap. Then Vanessa grabbed both her and her brother and took off running as Lillia’s screams rose up to the uncaring moon.
— — —
A few more turns and suddenly they were facing an endless hallway with doors on both sides. Vanessa led them down, seemingly looking for one door in particular.
“What’s going on?” Michael asked.
“Hmm,” Vanessa considered the question. “Well, I would say I just saved your life and that the House has already claimed the rest of your friends.” She stopped at a door. “This one will get us out of the House, but you guys aren’t ready to go back home yet.”
“Where are we going?” Mira asked.
“To the house of a friend of mine. Being in this House has changed you both and you need time to get used to the changes.” She opened the door and they looked out into an alley in a decidedly Victorian looking burg. “And besides, I like showing off to my friends.” With that she nudged the twins through the door and followed them through, closing it behind her.