The room was almost royal in its finery and tradition and, tonight, it was impeccably decorated for a celebration. It was a very old room with high ceilings, a room built with large stone and rich wood inlaid with gold. The lights were antique, their rays eerie and deceivingly bright.
The ghostly light illuminated tables with fancy place settings, and balloons and banners draped the fine pictures that adorned the walls. A congratulatory sign stood in the middle of the room. Tables were heaped with fine food and drinks galore; glasses filled with the best champagne sat on trays, readied for a toast.
Yet, the contrast in that room could not have been more stunning. For, the remainder of the room was a shamble, tables in disarray, spilt drinks, smashed glasses and plates; chairs were overturned and broken, and, at the far end of that besieged room, there stood a man.
He was a young man, he was trembling and disheveled, leaning against a long marble table. He was older than he looked; he had an honest face and he was someone you would see pumping gas or working the grocery checkout.
Across from him a small group dressed for a night of revelry huddled, cowering behind a table turned on end in a corner.
A tomb-like silence blanketed the room.
There was a crash as a glass pitcher gave up its precarious perch.
A girl screamed.
Two girls were holding each other, they were sobbing. The men were looking around warily in dreadful expectation.
The young man looked over at them, he blinked his eyes. They’re themselves again, he thought in disbelief, they’ve turned back to normal… did they really change at all?
He looked down at the table. The body was still there, covered by a sheet, the glazed blue eyes staring lifelessly at the ceiling. He kicked away the cursed knife that lay at his feet; he was shaking, partly from anger, mostly from fear. It did happen, I know it did, he thought.
He tried to piece it all together, this was my special night, Chester told me so… and all of the people, all of the famous people… they did change. How did it turn into this, this nightmare?
And he struggled to understand how his special night, the night that everyone made him feel so honored and adored, turned into this night of horror… but I did it, just like she told me. I didn’t believe it, but she was right.
His heart pounded. But then these things do exist, he thought. I swore that they were nonsense, yet…yet... And he had to accept that those principles he had relied upon for all these years: logic, fact, and reason, were suddenly turned asunder.
He shook his head, thinking to himself, well, at least it’s over now, almost everyone is gone. They have changed back to normal and there they are, cowering, powerless. I’m leaving this awful place and I’ll never come back, I’ll just go home and forget all about this.
Then it began anew; the elegant room began to shake all around him. It started as a slight rumble, but it quickly increased in intensity. He gripped the table tightly to steady himself, as even the body began flopping around, one arm coming exposed from under the sheet slapping him on the side of the leg. He became frantic as the shaking increased more and more until it felt as if an earthquake had struck. What’s going on? When will this nightmare end? This can’t be happening, he thought, I can’t take any more!
The young man looked around in a panic. Everything in the room was shaking, the chandeliers were rocking back and forth casting their light every which way, shadows racing madly about the room. And in those crazy shadows, those that were left, those that did not run out of the room with the crowd, those that he knew so well, began wailing woefully. Even him, even him!
Suddenly a deafening clap of thunder tore through the room and it felt as if a storm had materialized inside the chambers themselves. A wind shrieked madly as flashes of lightning split the room and, for a moment, the image of a face appeared on the wall, a handsome face, a face consumed with rage, a face that quickly disappeared amid more crashes of thunder.
Then the ancient room, with all of its broken furniture and tables, balloons and banners and pictures on the walls, began spinning around. At first it began slowly, and the young man thought that he was just dizzy, but then it went faster and faster until the room became a blur before his eyes.
Everything was spinning, it was like looking at a hand-crank picture show in one of those old penny arcade booths but cranked faster and faster. And the age-old walls, their ornate paintings and decorations, the fancy stone, and even that table with the body upon it, indeed everything in the room, began to fade away, and the screams of terror were now drowned out by the roar of a maelstrom.
Then everything, everything but those lost souls, dissolved into the vortex and disappeared and now an eerie silence blanketed the void. There was no sensation anymore, no feeling, and those that had not run from that cursed room were levitated, floating in a black nothingness. They were suspended like marionettes held on a string against a pitch-black background.
Below, the fires burned furiously, and the young man thought, not that! He asked if I knew where I was… but this can’t be… it can’t be.
And that was all that he had time to think about as the others suspended along with him began their fall. One by one they fell, as if the strings that were holding them were suddenly cut, and the only sound that pierced the void was their screaming… screaming all the way down.
He watched them fall. He heard their voices, voices that had become so familiar to him, shrieking, piteously trailing farther and farther away as they fell. And, flying above those fires, he made out what appeared to be monstrous skeletons of birds. They were birds… but with grinning human skulls and these strange skeletons circled, screeching and slashing with terrible claws at the lost souls as they fell into the fire.
Then he felt it too. Shivers raced down his spine as he began his fall… down, down, down he plummeted towards those flames, his eyes open wide in disbelief as he followed the others.
And then he blacked out…
The intercom in the office buzzed and the blond, handsome man with steel blue eyes reached over and pressed a button.
“Yes, Miss Winston,” he answered.
“He is on line one.”
“Thank you,” and picking up the phone and pressing another button he said simply, “Alexander here.”
The man listened for a few moments and replied, “Yes, the situation with that book and the author, it is quite regrettable.”
Then, after a moment, “The author, well he is what is known by the humans as a nerd. Yes, a nerd. His parents died some time ago… no, they went the other way.
And, “Yes, both. His mother achieved a reasonably high eminence, his father barely made it. No, no, the boy is not evil, quite the contrary. Nor is he extremely good… no. Well, he is not what could be considered socially adept at all. He is what you would call an oddball.”
Then, “Yes, that has been tried. Yes, we had thought of that also. No, unfortunately, no.”
And, “Very true, I agree, I had thought that was the arrangement. It is quite disappointing, but I have taken care of everything. He is burning in the pit as we speak.”
Then, “Oh? Of course, you would like to hear…?”
He reached over and pressed another button and the voice of a man screaming in excruciating pain and agony burst forth from the speaker. And the blond, handsome man with steel blue eyes listened for a moment; he listened, and a slight smile crossed his face.
Then he pressed the button again and the speaker went silent.
“Yes, yes, as you heard, terrible pain, cutting… scorching. Very appropriate agony, quite appropriate. I thought that would be something that you would appreciate.”
Then, “Why, I had thought possibly one hundred years.”
Finally, “Two hundred years? As you wish.”