It wasn’t just Antonio who felt it; Collin too felt an unknown presence circling the room.
Hidden figures casting unholy cries, dark forces chanting strange hymns that sounded both unknown and yet strangely familiar.
Cloaked in the darkness of the stone home, Collin was shaken from his sleep by a shrill scream. A woman’s scream…or was it a man’s scream? It sounded like it had layers of sound. Like an acapella group hitting a ghastly high note in a silent room, followed by singular piano key.
Collin felt the hairs on his neck rise to the tune of ‘A’, followed by a half-pitched higher key. The sounds seemed to be inviting him to come join the song.
A dark, brooding piano began to play in a distant area of the home. Collin recognized the tune…it was Moonlight Sonata…a classic by Ludwig van Beethoven. He’d heard it once while watching Billy play Resident Evil, and the song always reminded him of something sinister lurking just around the corner.
In a pitch-black home in which he was unfamiliar with the layout, followed by the shriek of trees scraping against glass windowpanes and thunder booming high about the trees, Collin felt like he’d been transported into a horror flick.
Collin looked around the open-concept kitchen-living room. The stone fireplace, which once beamed and burned bright orange, yellow and red flickers of flame was now a dim, somber blue. Sadly, not enough to light the room. Collin had to resort to using his phone’s flashlight to guide his way through the home.
He was all alone. Everyone was gone.
“Hello?” he called out, shivering as his voice echoed around corners, up stairs, and down unseen passageways. He imagined his voice returning to him like a boomerang, perhaps with an answer to his call. Something along the lines of, ‘nobody’s home.’
Collin stepped over what he thought was a person on the ground…it was nothing more than a rumpled black cloth that had been thrown haphazardly in the middle of the floor.
The whole living room was littered with these dark cloths. It was then that he realized he could no longer hear Moonlight Sonata – he could only hear his own breathing. However, a new noise had joined him in the room. He recognized the sound.
It was that of an old grandfather clock. He remembered seeing it by the front entrance, but he had been racing to find the bathroom at the time that he didn’t stop and take a second to admire the beautiful wood finish, the reflective glass which hide gears and pulleys, string and other machinery within.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. It came everything two to three seconds apart.
The grandfather clock’s slow, steady metronome was not fast enough to keep up with the pace of Collin’s heartbeat, which was running at three times the speed.
Collin returned to the living room, and was struck by a sudden flash. A vision in his head.
Men in dark cloaks, darting quickly through the trees. He couldn’t see their feet, they floated like….silhouettes. He couldn’t tell if they were men, but he just assumed. They didn’t have any real form other than the close resemblance of a human-shape outline. But the visions distorted their appearance. Collin couldn’t focus. The vision wasn’t clear enough.
He closed his eyes, blocking out the sound of the ticking clock, and the tune of Moonlight Sonata, which began to cut through his eardrums like a sharp knife.
This time, everything started playing in reverse.
He heard something in the song…something that wasn’t there before.
He heard words.
They slipped in and out of Collin’s ears like butter across a hot frying pan. He could make out the faintest whispers. The longer Collin stood and focused on the words, the clearer they became.
Deep within the forest of the night
An old shrine nobody notices
The hands of a clock meet at the very top
Gold and Silver leaves, being grasped tightly
Those who hear my song
On the count of three you die
Hold your ears and run away
Or else I’ll kill you
To all living things, great or small
You will perish at wit’s end
Take your limited life
Now reflect upon it and live
Collin opened his eyes. He realized he was no longer alone.
Dark figures rose all around him. He couldn’t see their faces…he couldn’t see their eyes.
They only stood. Watching. Waiting. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
That’s when he heard a man’s voice.
“Your Integrity is hidden in bloodied ink. What good will that do you now?”
Collin felt a warmness in his pants. He released himself fully, and completely. He’d heard the figure’s strange message, and suddenly he realized he’d been waiting for that message all along.
His calling had arrived. His time was now. Collin was swallowed by the darkness. In his last breath, he felt his mouth whisper the word, “integrity.” The word danced across lips.
He let it be his final thought as he closed his eyes to the stone home.