Skullface

So blindly she had been walking through the shadows of the old castle, so blindly had she strayed into such danger. Ami touched the stone wall and felt the house tremble.

The wind blew her cloak in spirals around her, threatening to tear it from her back. She went to the door and demanded entrance, hoping against hope that she would not be the latest victim of this place of ill hospitality. She had heard the stories about this old house. She had seen the bodies hauled down from its doors. She walked through the door on swinging rusty hinges and pushed the chair up against it to hold it closed.

She walked into the room and listened to the silence for any signs of life. A footstep, a breath against a dust covered wall. Not even the scurrying of rats filled the air as she walked through that barren hallway.

Ami saw her footsteps on the wooden floor behind her and sighed. No one had been in that house for a long time. Since the cult had been evicted, chased into the basement tunnels and sealed in to die, no one had dared enter that place.

They had found dead beasts on the property, but the door had not opened for anyone in several months. The inside mirrored that completely. Cobwebs hung from corners, though the walls were not laced with spiders. The air reeked of dust and dead vermin, dead from lack of food and water many months ago, when the water had been turned off and there were no crumbs or bodies to feast on.

The room at the end of the hall had a single candlestick on a table in the center of the room. Ami did not light it. She flashed her flashlight around the room, looking at the shelves and shelves of ancient books. There was no surprise in the old place having a library of some kind. What surprised her was that the books were all still in fairly decent condition. They were not torn or burnt or water damaged. They were not decaying or falling apart in their bindings. She could see from the way the books stood that the literature was still well in tact.

She moved toward the closest shelf and started to read the titles to herself, looking for something worth taking back with her. Perhaps the cult had left something important there, some hint to its reason for killing so many and causing so much mayhem. She saw classics along the walls, with some research and maps. The entire room was disorganized with any books next to any other books. She could only assume that the owner of that library had a system. A very delicate system that somehow put the bible next to cryptozoology.

Ami grabbed the copy of the bible and pulled it out, feeling an odd heaviness about the text. She opened it up and watched as it fell to a certain spread of pages perfectly. There were highlights on the pages, though she looked at the pages around and saw nothing. She read the words that were highlighted with confusion. The words didn’t make sense together, and refused to stay in her mind long enough to piece them together in a sentence. One word, gone, second word, gone, third word, gone. She mumbled the words absently, trying to remember even one of them from repeating them over and over again, fighting without memory and without meaning.

There was a click behind her and Ami turned around to look at the doorway that had opened on the far wall. She could see a light behind it as she walked forward. She walked into the room and down the dark stairs toward the small flickering light at the bottom.

“Welcome home, Master.” A voice said from the darkness.

Ami looked around her and down at the light sitting on the table. She could see that there was someone who had been dwelling in that dark place, someone who had been waiting for someone else to come to them. She felt fingers wrap around her neck and pull her against a strong chest. A hand cupped her face and turned it to the side.

“You are not him.” The voice said, dangerously close to her ear. “Who are you?”

Ami didn’t answer him. She trembled in his hand and closed her eyes, breathing heavily in her panic. He licked along her neck and bit down on her earlobe, opening her closed piercing with a small stab of pain. She gasped and whimpered in fear, unable to speak with the monster clutching at her shoulders so tightly.

“Who are you?” It repeated, this time with a growl in its voice that demanded an answer. Ami sobbed and tried a few times before managing an answer.

“Ami Magneussen.” She said, “Scholar…”

A dark chuckle echoed through the room as she trembled in the beast’s claws. She looked around at the shapes she could see in the darkness and turned to look at the creature holding her there.

“You knew the password.” The creature hissed. “How did you know it?”

“It was highlighted…” Ami held up the book, watching it fall open in her hands to the page where the words were glowing in yellow one at a time. “This book…”

“Is a safeguard.” The creature said, “Should my master not return.”

She felt the claws lighten on her shoulders and she turned around to look on the creature. Sharp teeth not covered by lips and barely by gums looked down on her. Sunken eyes and skin that looked too tight for the skull it stretched across. She screamed silently inside as she stared upon the creature that had been so close to her. Without moving its mouth, it spoke.

“Leave here.” It said, its lips still in the darkness, “Your life is worth sparing now I am freed from this cell.”
Ami ran.

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