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Fan Fiction


Last Words
by Chris Eisenlauer

*************

Last Words

Jennifer, please forgive me. If there's anything left of you, please forgive me. I don't imagine I have much time, so I shall attempt to be brief. I may have only moments before some wandering denizen of this infernal house happens along and re-inspires the hunger for savagery that has clouded my reason for untold hours. That I am at all lucid right now shocks me considering my circumstances and I must apologize for the crude medium I've been forced to use; I have a quill, some paper, but only my own spilled blood for ink, and that I have in abundance.

I was the favored student of one Professor Gordon at the university, though I've only recently come to realize the damnation such favoritism could mean. He is a professor of abnormal psychology with an unhealthy interest in the occult. He invited my fiancée and me to this house, ostensibly for dinner, but his true purpose was far more sinister. Had I any inkling of the experiment he wished to subject us to, I would have taken Jennifer and gotten as far away from this place as possible. Of course, it seems ridiculous to make such statements now; there was no way to know and wishful thinking is profitless.

The house itself is a monstrosity, nestled securely within the thickly wooded hills of a stretch of forgotten Massachusetts countryside. It is the professor's hereditary estate and only he and the cruel ghosts of his ancestors know all the horrors perpetrated here; for surely God Himself would have intervened long ago had He the faintest notion of what goes on within these walls. But this is knowledge I learned at a dreadful cost; when Jennifer and I first saw it, we were entranced with the place. The drive was long and we were pleased to have arrived, just beating the onset of a terrific storm which proceeded to paint the place into an ominous, yet intriguing picture: It looked for all the world like the archetypal haunted house. We were both very amused by our singular reaction, for our field of study had done much to expel such mythical concepts: Haunted houses, we both knew, existed solely in the realm of popular entertainment. I know better now.

We were greeted at the door by the butler, a strange little fellow whose features eluded me for the shadows, and whose voice was a tittering wheeze. He escorted us to the library where we found Professor Gordon. The Professor bragged of his arcane books and spoke always in a conspiratorial manner as if there were others present in the room who were keyed in to the hidden significance of his words. Jennifer was clearly perplexed, and I could offer no explanation since his demeanor seemed so different from that exhibited in the lecture hall, but it entertained her greatly and she did her best to accommodate him. As I look back, there was the clear air of madness about him: His eyes shone with mirth, but it was a sadistic kind of mirth as I was soon to realize. At the time, I thought it was the brandy in him.

After a fashion, the butler announced that dinner was ready and at his words, the Professor nearly shuddered with pleasure. Jennifer and I shared a look of confusion as we moved into the dining room. The Professor remained at the head of the table straining with inexplicable anticipation as he told us to sit where we would. The conversation at dinner was much like that in the library, though now the Professor became more intense. He asked me my goals, both professional and personal, and asked the same of Jennifer. He seemed to find great irony in the confluence of our career paths, explained himself with a chuckle, and continued in silence with his meal. The food was appetizing but unidentifiable and it appeared to differ by plate.

Eventually, the Professor became intrigued with the clock and said, "Tick tock," as the hour struck nine. Just then, there came throughout the house a resounding clamor that I later realized was the sound of countless bolts being shot and bars falling before the windows. The Professor put down his utensils and became more cordial again. He asked us about the food, taking special interest in Jennifer's opinion. In a sick parody of response, she began to convulse slowly but with great force. As I attempted to voice my concern I found the sound of my own voice a strange and unfamiliar thing. My limbs had grown heavy and the room began to spiral: I could not move.

The professor's face took on a nightmarish quality as he cackled and spat. "You, my good Richard, have merely been drugged," he said. "She, on the other hand, has partaken of a very special dish. One that is sure to change her life." He laughed anew at his own macabre humor. He stood up and backed out of the room. "I'll open the house to you in a little while, but first, I'll give you some time to be reacquainted." With that he exited and locked the door behind him.

At first I feared for her health. She seemed wracked with unutterable agony but then it became clear that something else was happening. I could do nothing but watch my poor, lovely Jennifer undergo a hideous bodily transformation, the details of which I am loathe to pen. For the first time now, I began to fear for my own safety and not hers. The thing she had become stared and sniffed and dashed the china from the table. It leapt before me and sank both claw and fang deep into my breast. My head was astir and I felt the pressure of her clinch, but, because of the narcotic, pain was something far, far away. I watched with understandably mixed emotions as my life-blood rushed down my front and sullied the chops of what had once been my fiancée.

In my prison of flesh I became aware of the beating of my own heart as it began to drown out all other sounds. It slowed and slowed until I was aware of nothing else. I would be dead soon. Or so I thought. It would have been so simple had that been the case. My dinner plate, gaudy and large like the rest, exploded suddenly and without provocation. The shattered remains revealed something odd that I could not help but focus on as I began to slip into darkness. It looked rather like a face; a mask really, wrought in fine, stippled ivory, which somehow had been baked into the plate.

My next recollection is of waking up alone in the dining room except for several bloodied forms strewn about the floor and upon the table. The door was flung wide and there was the sound of activity beyond, something scrabbling down the hallway. All was dark, but I was able to see fairly well which I cannot really explain except that it must be some property of the mask that I found affixed to my face and which is still there now. The noise from the hall grew louder and something entered the room. It wasn't altogether human, nor was it purely animal, but some ungodly combination of the two.

As it crossed the threshold, my will abandoned me and was replaced with indescribable fury. My vision immediately became a thing filtered through blood-soaked gauze and my body began to move of its own accord. I was as a passenger on a train unable to affect my own course and I watched as my fists struck with precision and unmitigated violence. My knuckles were soon slick and red and that incited me all the more. It was then that I heard the voice in my head. First I took it for lunacy, then I knew the truth: It was the voice of the mask. "My price is blood, my product is power," it whispered. "I am dying and I am to do it insane," I thought. "My price is blood, my product is power," it repeated. "My delusions are insistent," I thought.

And then it said something that made me think I might be hearing the voice of another and not that of my own madness. It said in its horrible whisper, "Blood is blood," and I began to comprehend its meaning. I was dimly aware now of my fists rending flesh, tearing at organs, and shattering brainpans; indeed the dining room was a gory mire and blood flowed in rivulets. The room had filled with hideous hybrid creatures and I seemed to be a staunch nemesis to each and every one. A whispered laugh echoed in my head as reason faded into the now familiar and intrusive lust for carnage.

I can only remember flashes of particularly abhorrent actions I witnessed myself perform -- and I am strangely unmoved by them now in my sobriety. When the last heart besides my own stopped beating and nothing more entered the dining room, a semblance of coherent thought returned to me. I found myself panting as I climbed clumsily over masses of broken and unholy corpses. The mask spoke again. "Power is satisfaction, is it not?" It laughed at my attempt to deny this.

"Who are you?" I said aloud.

"Look in the mirror," it whispered in my head, and then it laughed all the harder when I couldn't bring myself to do this.

"You are my jailor," I whimpered.

"Perhaps. But I am also your liberator and savior. Do you not live and breathe?"

"Yes, but for how long and for what purpose?"

"As long as there's blood, and you have already guessed it."

"To pit two obscene powers against one another and the two of them against the dangers of this house? Do you answer to the Professor?" I said.

"I answer first to blood, then to you. You wish to kill him."

I tried to protest but it plumbed the depths of my own mind far better than I ever could. "The Professor is clever, but there is a larger threat which my design will not allow to go unchecked," it said.

"Jennifer."

"Yes, though she as you knew her is gone... Mostly." I would say that we struck a bargain, but I know that really this was just my dawning acceptance of a course I could not alter. The mask requires blood, and I require the mask for survival or the wounds I had incurred would finally take their toll as they are beginning to now. I also realized that the mask was not so alien. It looked into my psyche and extracted what it needed. I was capable of the things it helped or made me do, it merely acted as a focusing lens and continues to do so, but for how much longer I cannot say.

What troubles me is how thin the wall is to rabid, animal violence: I nearly crave it now if only to keep myself alive -- and alive for what? Justice, I suppose. Or maybe it's better to call it what it is: Revenge. I found Jennifer and we fought. I have few and fragmented memories of our exchange. What remains of her is across the room before the bookcase. I do not know what to feel. I have killed a monster, a monster which sought to kill me, but which was once the love of my life. My victory, while far from complete, is perhaps tenuous: One of her blows left the mask with a long crack and it has grown silent for a time. I go now in the hopes that the mask is still hungry, that blood is its balm for all things, for I intend to satiate it, if at all possible, with all that remains in this wicked, wicked house.

Richard Shields
March 3, 1918