The guest in his house
He brought an ill boy back with him. I haven’t seen him for six months, but the boy looked seven and I knew he’d never been to Switzerland before.
I was worried.
The child was pale and weak, a dreary expression on his ghost-like face, his eyes reddened around dark orbits. His hand rested firm on the boy’s shoulder. Firm were his eyes fixed on mine.
I spoke to call a doctor, but he shook his head and without a second glance at me, took the boy upstairs. He didn’t come down for days. And when he came he did so alone, to give some orders to his household staff. Before I could speak to him he was off again. Up the stairs and into the dark.
He had requested the head maid’s presence at the time of solitude, but not once did he send for me. Not once I climbed those stairs seeking him myself. Until…
But no, before that there is some more. Before the dreadful events that took place one night.
I kept wondering, but I heard no sound, no whispers, no shouts, not a mumble rolling down the halls. The maid was but a ghost herself, appearing in the small kitchen for a brief moment, than ascending the stairs in the middle of the night, with a heavy tray loaded with many lids. At least the child is feeding, were my thoughts, but in the back of my mind I knew how awfully strange and wrong his absence seemed, and how even odder was that I never once heard this young boy’s voice.
And I watched in the nights, and I roamed the room downstairs, I raised my voice and banged my fists, but the maids were all so silent, and the footman, and the valet. They were all so silent.
So one night, determined and obsessed a little of my own, I climbed those stairs long after the maid had gone up then came down. I listened to the sound of my foot falling upon the wooden step, the gentle creak of it in the midst of night and I feared I will be heard. But no one came. And so I climbed on.
My fingers brushed up against the wall and it was cold, so very cold! Had there been a window open? But in the stretching corridor, without a light lid on, there was just a door slightly open. I knew it by the instance.
It was my cousin’s door.
Just some feet before the door a wave of chill overtook me, shaking me off stance. I breathed cold like in the midst of winter though I was inside. How could it be so cold?
And then there was this low and fragile sound, as if someone was speaking, repeating something over and over again. What language was that?
With the freeze growing on me I pushed open the door, at last to either witness some monstrosity and end it, or to put aside my worries.
The fireplace was slowly fading, burning down its last two chunks.
“Richard?” I tried calling, but my voice came weak between my chattering teeth.
What I saw next, when my eyes adjusted to the semi-dark inside the room has made me wish I had been blind that moment. Oh, God almighty what I saw there inside!
The sight, the smell, the sound, the cold have ever since been on me. I’m afraid I have invented an asylum here inside my head, inside my home, a small universe of my own to be protected, locked until I die. There, I leave myself to doubt what happened on that night.
But when at night the cold creeps up on me like a stray dog and nibbles on my skin, then I remember how the walls were skin and breathing as if they were alive and the raspy sound as they inhaled. I remember the pulsating hearts and ribs out sticking, dead meat hanging loosely on them. And all those eyes madly spinning in the dark, all those mouths sucking, biting! And the voice, the chanting voice, a figure bend down, crying. Poor Richard! Poor cousin of mine!
I fear no self-imposed sanctuary can receive me and protect from the sight that night of the guest in his house.