The Home

📅 Published on February 6, 2022

“The Home”

Written by Dan Weatherer
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Her first coherent thought for today; how surprisingly pleasant.

She was entombed between impossibly white walls in a haven of filth, cold to the touch of her cheek should she choose to rest against them, sending a chill rushing through her flesh and deep into the marrow of her bones.  Her bonds are tight and reeking, though she has grown accustomed to the stench of filth barely masked by the odor of piss-weak bleach.

But those walls again, impossibly white walls in a haven of filth only because she pictures them so.

The fuzziness of a drug-induced weariness begins to lift, and she momentarily recalls that she is in the Audsley House Adolescent Home For The Emotionally Troubled, a polished and overly polite title, for what is, in essence, an asylum.

She hears the hurried CLIP-CLACK of plastic heels on tiled floor, accompanied by insistent, plim-soled shuffles.

Today, there are two of them – maybe three.

Her cell, windowless and secure, does little to keep out external sounds, be they cries of others like her or the squeak and squeal of the approaching wheelchair attempting to gain traction.

They come for her now, of that she is certain, their gait shows no sign of slowing; they will not be stopping at some other unfortunate’s door this day.

How long was it since their last visit?

She struggles to recall.  The passage of time is all but immeasurable beneath the constant artificial glare of the solitary, humming, strip-light above her.

The turn of a key.

The twist of a handle.

The squeal of a metal door opening.

Before her, three silhouettes familiar in shape.  The gleam of the metal wheelchair catches her eye, and for a moment, she sees stars dancing atop its surface.

* * * * * *

A rain-sodden street, devoid of any remarkable landmark.  Badly lit, the road riddled with potholes; the ass end of a town that nobody admits to living in.

A van, white beneath a sheen of accumulated traffic filth, parked where the fence that runs the length of the street stands mostly vertical.  Though unlit, careful observation uncovers three shapes sitting inside, their vigil long, their patience tested.

Another figure is visible now, the first to enter the street in many hours.  This solitary figure hurries beneath the downfall, coat buckled tightly in a bid to keep the winter’s rain at bay.

The patience of the three is rewarded further, as fog has settled (as if almost on cue). Should any altercation occur on this street at this time, none watching from their window would ever know.

The passenger door to the van opens.

The driver’s door follows suit.

Two figures step out of the van and into the fog.

The figure hurrying along the street hears the doors open but not close.  If unnerved by this, the stride does not betray, for the pace remains steady.

He (or she, the gender is not clear) passes by the figures in the van, without hesitation and without acknowledgment.

The two figures from the van follow after, and within a couple of strides, the three walk side by side.  There is a brief scuffle.  Angry words are exchanged.  The voice registering surprise is that of a woman.

She breaks free from the melee and begins to run.  She is light on her feet, but one of her attackers, the slender one, is able to match her speed.  With a deft flick of the wrist, he extends the shaft of a police baton, and when he is within range, strikes the woman on the back of her head.

She falls to the ground with an unbecoming grunt.

For a moment, the two pursuers stand next to her.  No words are exchanged; one can only assume that the enormity of their situation weighs on their minds, if only momentarily.

For soon, they are manhandling her into the back of the van, a sack now secured over her head; a sack with a frowning face daubed in red.

The other person from the front of the van (the one that abstained from the chase), now stands by the open doors at the back of the van.  A roll of duct tape is passed to the one colleague who has entered the van with the woman.  The squeal of tape being unrolled echoes along the street, but none are around to hear it.

* * * * * *

The van, now with four occupants (one reluctant), is parked, lights off, motor cooling, in a quiet, residential street.  There is no derelict fence lining the pavement, nor a myriad of potholes.  The fog has lifted.  Sian wonders if this neighborhood is above the fog.

Toby turns to his sister, who sits occupying the middle seat.  “Are you sure this is the right address?”

She produces a crumpled piece of paper from her pocket and switches on the light beside the rear-view mirror.  The letters on the paper appear smudged from an earlier episode of tears.  She wonders whether they were born of anger or fear.

“Yep,” she says, stuffing the piece of paper back into her pocket and wiping her nose on the sleeve of her coat.

“Looks to have done pretty well for himself, doesn’t he?” asks Callum, the third member of the kidnapping collective.

“Yeah, he does,” mutters Toby.  “The bastard.” He turns towards his sister, aware of her anxiety.  “Are you sure you wanna go through with this?  We can switch to Plan B…it’s no problem.”

Sian nods, looking straight ahead.  “I’m fine.”

The three of them exit the van, ignoring the muffled groans and dull CLUNKS emanating from the back of the van.  Without a word uttered between them, they approach the house they have been observing for the last half-hour, a typical two-up, two-down, detached with white walls, tall iron gates, an immaculate garden and a double garage.  It is set back further from the street than other nearby houses, perhaps indicating the owner’s desire for privacy.  This would only aid the kidnappers’ efforts and had not gone unnoticed by Toby.  He and Callum break away from Sian to source entry via the back door.

Sian, her fear rising, stands before the polished plastic of the innocuous front door and raises her finger towards the doorbell.

* * * * * *

It is too late in the day for callers, thinks Robert Osterbury, as he digs his fork into his tray of take-away food.  The television has his attention (or at least it did until the doorbell chimed).  He is watching pornography.

The doorbell chimes again.

Annoyed, Robert tosses his fork into his food, passes his plate aside, and stands. “One moment!” he calls as he shuffles into the hallway.

The doorbell chimes a third time.

“Hold yer horses, will yer?” he says as he slides aside the numerous bolts that secure his front door.  “I’m not as sprightly as I once-”

The door is ajar, and before him stands a girl.



Slim and gaunt.

A flicker of recognition sparks somewhere in his mind before her startled expression quickly wrestles back his full attention.  “Yes?  What is it?  It’s very late.”

The girl takes a small but altogether noticeable step away from him.  “I’m…really erm, sorry to call at this late hour,” she begins, fumbling over her words.

To Robert, her apology sounds forced, and her sincerity lacking.

“It’s just my car has a flat tire,” continues the girl, “and…I need to borrow a phone. Could I use yours, please?  I’ll be quick.”

Robert scrutinizes her eyes, searching for truth and finding none.  He peers past her and into the street.  “Where’s your car?  I can take a look at it if you like?”

The girl shifts on her feet and looks to the rain-sodden paving slabs.  “It’s around the corner.  I don’t have a spare…stupid of me, I know.  It’ll just take me a quick call to get someone out.  I’ve decent breakdown insurance.”

“Did you try any of the neighbors?” asks Robert, his ears tuned for deceit.

“Yes, I did, actually.”

A pause.  The rain is barely falling at all and just seems to almost hang in the air as a fine mist.

Robert decides she is not going to offer an explanation without a prompt.  “And?” he asks, awaiting her next installment of fiction.

“And…nobody answered.  Not one.”  She looks at him with eyes convinced that she has sold him her lies.

His interest piqued, he stands aside; she needs no further invitation.  “Yeah, I suppose you can’t be too careful these days,” he says as she moves past him and into the hallway, her scent filling his nostrils.  “You never know who is standing on your doorstep.”

She stands in front of him, unsure as to where to go.  He motions to the door on his right and nods.  “The phone’s just through there.”

* * * * * *

Sian pretends to dial.  Behind her, sitting in his chair, is one of the men who haunts her nightmares.  He sits, stuffing his face with Chinese food, oblivious to the danger which has come knocking on his door this night.

Her eyes glance towards the dated, dusty television set, sat atop a chunky VCR.  At least he had enough courtesy to pause the filth on the screen.

“Yes…hello?” says Sian, beginning her fake call.  “Goodwin.  Mary.  ST3 7YD…I don’t have that; it’s at home.  Look, I’ve got a flat tire.  Can you get anyone out to me?”

A sudden, prickling sense of being watched.

She turns to look at him.  He is grinning at her, a greasy, sickening smirk.  Noodles dangle from his lips, and she feels her stomach lurch in disgust.  Behind him, in the corner of her eye, she sees the door to what she guesses to be the kitchen open.

Did my mask slip?  I don’t think so.  Back to the act:

“That’s great!  How long?  Nope, that’s fine.  Thank you ever so much for your help.” She pretends to hang up and places the phone back into its cradle.  “Thank you.  They are sending someone out to me.”

“No problem.”

Startled, she turns to see him standing right in front of her.  She hadn’t heard him move, but then she never did.

She moves towards the hallway.  “I’ll get out of your way now and leave you to your…erm…well, your evening.”

“They know where you are, then?” he asks, following after.

“Yes, they will be here soon,” she says, fumbling with the latch securing the front door.

“Only you never gave an address.”

Another awkward pause as Sian mentally searches for an explanation.

Her mobile phone emits a beep from her jacket pocket.  She produces it with a flourish.  “They can erm…track me using this!” she says, her voice leaden with relief.

“Oh!” says Robert, his eyebrows arched.  “Isn’t modern technology fantastic?”

She does not answer; she is out of the door and almost to the gates.

“But tell me, why didn’t you use your mobile phone to call them in the first place?”

Sian closes the gate behind her and pauses to look back.  She has no answer, and he has plenty.

* * * * * *

The back door is open, as planned.  Sian steps into the darkness of Robert’s kitchen. Poised ahead of her, balaclavas on, Toby and Callum stand either side of the door.  Watching as Callum initiates a silent countdown with his hand, she struggles to smother a smile as she thinks back to the soldier games they played in the home back when…

Just ‘back when.’

On Callum’s signal, Toby eases open the kitchen door and creeps silently into the living room.  Callum follows immediately behind.

Sian had earlier agreed to remain behind, safe and out of sight, but the urge to watch overcomes her, and she moves towards the open doorway just in time to see them make their move on Robert.

Toby stuffs a sock into Robert’s mouth and duct tapes it into position.  Callum places a sack hood over Robert’s head and tightens with a drawstring: a sack hood with a painted sad stickman face.

Their prisoner makes no effort to stand, allowing Toby to tape his hands without so much as a struggle.  Sian feels that Robert’s surrender came too easily…almost as though he knew they were coming for him.


It has been years since…

It has been a long time.

The three of them march Robert out through the back door, alongside the house and out into the street.  He goes willingly and without protest, his head bowed, his steps even and measured.

Sian watches, following further behind.  Is this a man accepting his fate?  She wonders, perturbed at his eagerness to comply, or is this a man terrified for his life, trying in vain not to anger his captors?

Either way, it matters little.  His fate was set, as was that of the woman now sitting upright in the back of the van.  Her crude sack face turns to greet them as Callum opens the doors.  The sight of her unsettles Sian momentarily, for she recalls not only the face behind the mask but her evil intent.

Toby pushes Robert in the small of his back as he climbs into the back of the van, forcing him to the ground.  Callum slams the doors shut.

Toby removes his balaclava and winks at his sister.  “One more to go.”

She smiles at her twin, pushing aside all thought of the woman in the van.  “One more to go,” she repeats, her confidence returning by way of her brother’s gaze.

* * * * * *

The acquisition of captive three was the one aspect of the night’s events that unnerved Sian the most, and though neither of them showed any sign, she understood that Toby and Callum felt likewise.

The capture of Harold Mullins was the birthing of their entire plan.  He was the cause of all their nightmares, all their suffering, all their scars.

They all had reason to fear him.

And yet, now he would be almost seventy years of age; an old man, harmless, feeble and incontinent.  What threat could he possibly pose to three adults in the prime of their lives?

Sian’s reasoning did little to quell the sweat pouring out of her.  She was glad that in this instance, the boys had insisted that she stay behind in the van to keep watch over the two prisoners in the back, and should she so desire, watch the live feed of Harold’s kidnapping via Toby’s hand-cam.

Several times that day, she had asked herself if she was ready to face him.  Knowing that she had to be, she ignored the answers screamed by her conscience.  All she knew for sure was that she was glad she wouldn’t have to face him in his home.

What about in the other home?

That would be different.  He’d be bound.  He’d be helpless.  He’d know how it felt.

* * * * * *

A world of green light and impossible shadows illuminates the screen of Sian’s mobile phone as she journeys virtually with Toby and Callum through the interior of Harold’s home. The familiar shapes of furniture twist and contort before the glare of the infrared camera; the images relayed appear to show an alien, almost nightmarish version of reality.  There is no sound coming from the video feed, lending a further air of disconnection between what she knew to be happening and the events she was watching unfold on screen.

Sian’s pulse sounds loudly in her chest, beginning to raise in tempo as the boys climb the stairs and enter the upper floor.

Harold’s bedroom is quickly located.

The door is ajar.

Toby and Callum enter.

The camera focuses upon a solitary figure lying atop of the sheets in a king-size bed. He is fully clothed, and his eyes are open, staring straight up at the ceiling.

Toby moves closer with the camera.

Harold sits suddenly upright; his eyes stare straight into the camera.

Sian jumps in her seat.

Toby fumbles with the camera.

The monitor screen goes blank.

Many minutes pass as Sian nervously checks her watch, failing to register any sense of time.

The video feed is blank.

There has been no sign of life coming from within the house and no sign of the boys returning.

Suddenly, the van echoes with the sounds of the rear doors opening, and something heavy is deposited into the back of the van.  Beside her, the passenger door opens, and Toby, his face masked in sweat, his complexion pale, gives her the thumbs up.

* * * * * *

A long drive into darkness.

They pass no other vehicle on their journey.

This road was always quiet, the location of the home likely chosen for that very reason.

Beyond Sian’s window, rolling hills and barbed wire fences lost to the murk of the night.  Further, little else within twenty miles, aside from long-abandoned farmhouses and fields of creeping thistle.  How Sian longs for the journey to continue, over all too quickly as the silhouette of Audsley House appears on the horizon, igniting her fear once more.

As Toby and Callum march each of their prisoners indoors, Sian remains by the van, content to observe, her eyes trained on the derelict hall, staying far away from the entrance, knowing that she must, but unsure all the same as to whether she will be able to set foot inside.

* * * * * *

Three sad-faced, sack-headed individuals sit bound in a line to their chairs.  None tries to speak.

Toby walks along their line, his pace meandering, a smile on his face.  Callum stands alongside Sian.  She feels his desire to protect, though he knows only too well that she has been damaged beyond hope.

The Great Hall, once the grand, polished (and lying) face of the Audsley House, is charred and riddled with graffiti.  There is no art here, only the scrawls of others traumatized by their time spent within her walls.

There are prayers daubed in paint.

There are obscenities daubed in feces.

Any lingering remains of the home’s professional visage have either been consumed by flame, hate, or both.

Toby nods towards Callum, who steps forwards and proceeds along the line of prisoners, removing their hoods.

The woman, Fiona Crestwell, her mascara smudged from tears long dry, winces at the light of the moon pervading through the exposed crossbeams of the collapsed ceiling.  On noting Sian’s expression, she adopts a forced expression of calm and even composure.

Robert begins to whine and plead as soon as his sack is removed.  Callum answers him by placing it back over his head.  More increasingly desperate pleas follow.  Toby warns Robert to be quiet, who nods in agreement, and Callum removes his hood once more.

Harold laughs as Callum removes his hood.  A straight jab to the jaw silences his sniggers momentarily as he spits blood onto the scorched tiled floor.

Toby notices Sian take a step backward as Harold’s hood is removed.  “Don’t worry, OK?” he whispers.  “They are all tied down.  They can’t do shit to us.”

Sian nods and offers a weak smile.

“Are you sure you are OK with this?” Toby asks her, noting her reaction.

Another nod from Sian.  “I’m good.  I can do this.  I have to do this.” She steps forwards, occupying the space she had retreated from moments earlier.  “I’ll skip the introductions.” she begins, her voice cracking slightly.  “We all know one another, even if it has been a few years since…” Her voice trails off as memories of the last time she was alone with the three captives threaten to overwhelm her.

“How long exactly has it been?  I’m curious.  Eight…nine years?” asks Harold, through bloodied teeth.

Fiona narrows her eyes and fixes them on Sian.  “Not long enough to wipe the memory of you three.”

“Please, not this…it was a lifetime ago!” pleads Robert.

“Twelve,” says Toby, coldly.  “It was twelve years ago.” “Really?” says Harold in mock surprise.  “Is it that long?” He turns to Robert, who is sweating profusely and threatening tears.  “Doesn’t time have a habit of getting away from you?” “Please,” begins Robert again, ignoring Harold.  “We’ve all moved on with our lives.  We’ve all atoned in some way!” Toby leans in close to Harold, wrinkling his nose in disgust.  “It felt like only yesterday to us.” “Please!  Untie me, let me go.  I’ve got money, a lot of money.  Whatever amount you need – it’s yours!” cries Robert, sobbing now.  “Please…I’m not that man anymore…you have to believe me!” Callum approaches Robert, his fists balled tightly.  “Shut the fuck up!  You want me to hit you, too?” Toby eases Callum aside, calming him with a look.

Harold turns towards Robert, laughing.  “See, you made the guard dog mad!  Bad boy!” “You always were a fucking pussy,” hisses Fiona.

But Robert has caught Toby’s interest and continues, holding his gaze: “No, no…it’s not like that!  I had nothing to do with any of this!  You know, don’t you?  You remember?”

“I think it’s probably too late to try and talk your way out of this now!” spits Fiona, anger marring her words.  She eyes Sian, and any lingering trace of rage dissolves from her features.

“So,” begins Fiona, her tone direct.  “Out with it!  Who are you?  You look familiar, but then we had so many of you brats pass through our-”

Sian cuts Fiona off mid-sentence with a slap.  “Bitch!” Fiona smiles, her cheek reddening by the second.  “Y’know, I thought it was you; you always did have claws…it was a shame we had to clip them.” Fiona’s words trigger a memory that at first merely teases Sian’s senses before overcoming them entirely.

* * * * * *

Sian is restrained in a chair.  Her surroundings are dimly lit.  She sees exposed pipework and row upon row of filthy cracked tiles.  The smell of damp invades her nostrils.  Before her stands Fiona, her features softer, her scowl minus the creases of middle age, and next to her Robert, his frame less bulky, one hand down the front of his trousers.

Harold approaches her from her right.  He smiles that smile, and terror is all that she knows.

“You can shut it too!” threatens Callum.  “I’m not above hitting a woman.” Sian, realizing that she is free from the chair, the memory, and now back among friends, eyes Fiona, suddenly bold, suddenly angry.  “That ain’t no woman.” She calls to Toby, her eyes fixed on Fiona.  “Did you pack the pliers?” Toby rummages through the holdall, produces a pair of needle-nose pliers, and tosses them to Sian.  “Check!” Sian toys with them.  “Remember these?”

Fiona looks away in disgust.

“Hey!  Hey, Toby!  It is you!  I can’t believe it took me this long to figure it out!  I’m usually so good with faces!” begins Harold, his tone insistent.  “ I recognize you now.  The girl…Sarah something-or-other, and you, dear big brother…ever her knight in shining armor!  You were our only set of twins, you know!” He laughs, loud, celebratory.  “Oh, I do love a reunion!  Catching up, reliving the good old days!”

Harold’s attention suddenly shifts to Callum.  “But you, BOY!  You, I don’t recall.  You mustn’t have made an impression on me quite the same way as my delightful twins did.”

Callum, livid, strides towards Harold, his fist raised, ready to strike him again.

Toby intervenes.  “No!  I want that prick conscious for a while yet.”

A moment to think, and Callum nods, lowering his fist.

Harold, now taunting in a sing-song voice: “That’s right.  Be a good boy and do as you are told.”

Robert catches Toby’s eye and resumes his pleading.  “Look, I’ve nothing to do with any of this, you know that, right?  I never hurt any of you.  I never even touched you!”

“No, you didn’t,” replies Toby, his eyes trained on Robert’s pallid face, hate filling his world.

“And I said I’ve got money.  I can pay you whatever you want, just let me go.  I won’t say anything to anyone…I promise!”

A beat of silence that seems to echo throughout the hollowed-out Hall.

“One hundred thousand?” asks Toby, tentatively,

Robert nods all too eagerly, his many chins quavering in unison.  “Sure!  Yes, Of course!”

“Toby, what the fuck?” asks Callum.

Sian turns to Callum.  “Shush.”

“Each,” demands Toby.  “One hundred thousand each.”

Robert’s face flushes as he commits to the lie: “Yes, of course…I can do that.  It might take me a few days to raise the funds, but-”

“You disgusting, fat fuck,” interrupts Fiona, her anger barely contained.  “Always out to save your own skin.  You are as much a part of this as any of us!”

Robert directs his pleading away from Toby, and towards Fiona.  “I didn’t do anything!  You know I didn’t…not like you!”

Toby stands in front of Robert, seizes him by his cheeks, and presses his forehead to his.  “That was always your problem, Robert.” The two stare into one another’s eyes, each breathing heavily, Robert’s face drips with perspiration, his pleads lost to his lips.

Toby crouches to pick a broken brick end from the floor, meeting Robert’s terrified gaze, and passes the brick end from one hand to the other.  “You are right – you never did anything.  You never did anything to stop it.”

Toby stands and raises the brick end above his head.  Robert’s shouts become louder. “I can pay!  I can pay!  For the love of Go-”

Toby brings the point of the broken brick end crashing down into the top of Robert’s skull, cracking his head open.  Several violent blows later, and Robert is unrecognizable; his head is a pulped mass of skull fragments and brain tissue: any semblance of a face is lost beneath a mask of gore.

Toby tosses the bloodied brick-end to the floor, steps away from Robert’s body, and turns towards Sian, grinning.  His face and clothes are spattered with blood.

Fiona turns away from Robert in disgust.

Harold sniggers.

Callum approaches Toby, shoving him hard in the chest.  “Toby…what the fuck, man?”

“Bravo!” coos Harold.  “I say, Bravo!  I’d applaud if I could.  My, that was impressive!”

“Animal,” mumbles Fiona, her voice sounding uncharacteristically feeble.

Callum shoves Toby again, almost causing him to fall backward.  “What the hell did you do that for?” he asks, the artery in his neck bulging.

Toby answers with a smirk and a defiant stare.

“There’s no point trying to reason with him now, boy!” interjects Harold.  “He’s lost in the moment…he’s savoring the kill, if you will.” His attention switches from Callum, to Toby.  “It feels good, doesn’t it?  Better than the best fuck you ever had!  Am I right?”

Callum turns towards Harold, utters a quick threat, and takes Toby aside, further from Harold’s approving glare, a glare that Toby is all too willing to meet.

“Toby, TOBY!  Look at me, dammit!”

Toby obliges and meets Callum’s eye.

“Fuck, man!  You know I’ve got your back on this.  You know I’m all in…but this isn’t what we agreed!  This…this is just a mess!”

“This is how it has to be,” replies Toby, his expression blank.

Harold’s laugh echoes into the night

Callum fixes Harold with a glare of his own.  “Shut the fuck up, old man, or I swear to God…”

“God, you say?” snorts Harold.  “There’s no God here!  This place is in his blind spot. Always has been…how else could we have played our little games all these years-”

Callum bounds across the floor and wraps his hands around Harold’s throat, cutting him off again mid-sentence before Toby quickly breaks his grip.

“No!  I already said not yet.  Not like that.”

“Fuck.  He’s poison, mate!  You’re no good listening to him!” Callum turns towards Sian.  “Did you know?”

She stares blankly at him.

Callum repeats the question: “Tell me, did you know it was gonna be like this?”

“Of course, she knew!” answers Harold, struggling to regain his breath.  “Twins have no secrets, haven’t you heard?”

Sian and Callum exchange looks: Callum’s is one of confusion and disappointment; Sian’s is riddled with silent apology.

Fiona stirs and fixes her attention on Toby.  “If you are going to do this, spare me the melodrama, and get it over with.  I’ve made my peace with what I did.”

Toby turns to his sister, seeking her approval.

Sian nods.  “Her next.”

A smile, all the more unnerving caked in blood, forms on Toby’s lips as he approaches Fiona.  He stands in front of her, his shadow draping her in darkness, his fingers flexing.  She meets his glare, showing no hint of fear.

How very noble of you!” says Harold to Fiona.  “I must say, I don’t recall you ever showing an ounce of regret.  Not ever.”

Fiona mutters a curt answer: “I didn’t.”

“She’s a rare breed, that one,” continues Harold.  “Incapable of feeling anything.  I must admit, it gave me a kick knowing she was in on this.  We shared many a moment reliving our exploits, didn’t we darling?”

Fiona is unable to reply because Toby’s hands are clasped tight around her throat.

“My, my!  Going for a more hands-on approach already!  He really has developed a knack for this!” says Harold, his glee apparent.

Callum, who is unable to watch his friend commit another act of murder, turns away and begins to pace the length of the Great Hall.

Sian, motionless, watches on.

“Fuck!  I can’t do this!” shouts Callum, kicking a pile of debris across the floor.

Sian answers without taking her eyes off her brother.  “You have to.  We agreed.”

Callum sits with his back towards the others.  “Not to this,” he mumbles.  “Not to murder.”

“You knew!” shouts Sian, suddenly angry.  “Yes, it was unsaid, but you knew.  We all did!  After what they did to us…they deserve this!  So, knock this weak shit off because we both need you!”

Toby steps away from Fiona’s lifeless corpse.  A silence, dense and accusing, settles in the room.

“You enjoyed that, didn’t you?” asks Harold, his voice low, barely above a whisper.

Toby, his shoulders heaving, smiles at Harold.  “Yes.”

Harold grins, his response posed more as a statement of truth rather than a question. “And now you understand why I couldn’t stop.”

“I’ve had enough of your poisonous tongue!” roars Callum, approaching Harold.  He strikes the old man hard in the jaw.  “YOU are the cause of all of this shit!”

Harold spits blood and smiles through broken teeth.  “You feel it too, don’t you, boy? That feeling of absolute mastery over another?  I bet you’re hard right now?”

Callum raises his fist to strike the man again, but something prevents him from doing so.  Angry and unable to voice his frustration, he spits on Harold’s face.  “Fuck you, you piece of shit.  I’m better than that.  I’m better than you.”

Callum retreats to the rear of the hall and resumes his pacing; Toby quickly takes his place in front of Harold.

“Ah!  My turn to meet the Reaper!” says Harold with a laugh.  “I must say, the anticipation was killing me…almost!” He peers around Toby to look at Sian.  “So, pretty lady, what have you and your brother cooked up for me?”

Toby produces a Stanley knife from his pocket.  “You’ll be pleased to hear that I saved the best until last.”

Harold eyes the tip of the blade as it glints beneath the moonlight.  His smile is quickly replaced by a look of concern.  “Look, I do hate to spoil your fun, but this has gone on quite long enough.  The fact of the matter is, I’m not actually here.”

Callum pauses mid-step and turns towards the group.  “You really are fucking crazy, aren’t you, old man?  Toby – if you’re gonna do this, and I’m fairly sure you are, do us a favor and start with his tongue, so we don’t have to listen to any more of his bullshit.”

Harold smirks.  “You can try, my boy, but you’ll never get that blade within an inch of my flesh.  Isn’t that right, Sian?”

* * * * * *

Something in the way he spoke her name transports Sian away from the burned-out Hall of Audsley House and back into that chair in the basement, back into those restraints.

Back to where Fiona stands scowling.

Back where Robert stands masturbating.

Back to where Harold is moving towards her mouth with a set of rusty pliers.

* * * * * *

A familiar voice – Callum calling her name, and Sian is among the charred remains and corpses of Audsley house once more.

He calls her name again, but she does not answer; the taste of copper fills her mouth. Instinctively she spits, and a single white tooth falls to the floor.  Sian cups her mouth with her hand as a tide of blood gushes from her gums.

Toby, oblivious to the plight of his sister, attempts to slice into Harold’s face but is unable to move the blade anywhere near to him.  Harold goads, and Toby’s anger rises. “Fuck!  I give up!  I can’t do this!  I can’t fucking cut him!” He turns to his sister.  “What’s he on about, Sian?  Why can’t I fucking cut the…”?  His voice trails off as he sees the puddle of blood at his sister’s feet and the tooth gleaming at its center.  “Sian…what the fuck?”

Callum is beside Sian, wiping her mouth, smearing blood across her cheek.  “What the fuck is going on?” he asks, aiming the question at Harold.  “Did you do this?”

Toby tosses the knife aside and rushes to his sister.  She smiles at him, a hopeless, confused, and bloody, gap-toothed smile.

“That one came out without much encouragement,” calls Harold from behind them. “Let’s try for one of the big ones at the back, shall we?

* * * * * *

And again, Audsley House fades into nothing, replaced by that same dank cellar, the same restraints, that same numbing feeling of terror.  This time though, Sian cannot see Fiona or Robert (but she can hear his excited grunts).  This time Harold’s grinning face fills her vision as he pushes his hand further into her mouth…

* * * * * *

Sian’s head jerks violently backward, tearing her body from Toby’s grip.  With a jolt, her head springs forwards, emitting a torrent of blood and a single, white molar.

“Wow, that one was in deep!” shouts Harold in surprise.  “I had to work hard to get that loose!”

Toby embraces his sister, who is shaking with fright.  Callum moves towards Harold, scooping the Stanley knife from the floor as he does so.  “What the hell is going on?  You’ll talk, or I’ll finish you here and now!”

“I told you all,” says Harold, matter-of-fact.  “I’m not here, and neither are you.  Ask Sian why.  She knows.”

Callum looks at Sian, his eyes pleading for an explanation.

Toby places his hands onto his sister‘s shoulders and locks his eyes with hers.  “Sian, I know you are scared right now.  Hell, so am I.  But what the fuck is going on?”

Sian shakes her head.  She is at a loss to explain what is happening, and what little composure remains she is using to stop herself from fleeing Audsley House.

“She knows what’s going on,” crows Harold.  “Deep down, if she really thinks hard…she knows.  She’s just too afraid to admit the truth to herself…but it’ll come.  Not long now!”

Callum approaches Harold with the blade of the Stanley knife exposed.  “You’ll need to give us more than riddles if you don’t wanna join your two friends here!”

“Quite impossible!” laughs Harold.  “Were you not listening earlier?” He nods towards Robert and Fiona.  “Besides which, neither of them is dead.  Not really.”

On hearing Harold’s words, Fiona and Robert begin to stir and straighten in their chairs.  Fiona, her flesh an unnatural shade of blue, fixes Callum with a knowing smirk. Robert, his head a mess of gore and bone, begins to struggle and fight against his restraints.

“Oh…fuck me, man…fuck me,” says Callum, slowly stepping away from Harold and his reanimated colleagues.  The Stanley knife clatters to the floor.

Toby turns towards the commotion, while Sian, unable to comprehend what she is seeing, stumbles backward and falls.

“You see, they aren’t dead,” continues Harold to Callum, “but you are, boy!  I drilled your head open with a Black and Decker.”

Callum suddenly slumps to the ground, a stream of blood arcing high into the air from an unseen wound on his head.

“And you!” says Harold to Toby.  “You, I gutted like a fish!”

On hearing Harold’s words, Toby’s stomach opens right to left, and he sinks to his knees, his mouth open in silent protest, his entrails rushing to meet the seared floor.

Sian crawls across the floor towards her kneeling brother, his breaths shallow, his life fading, tears stinging her eyes, fear clouding her senses.

“Which just leaves us three, and you!” says Harold to Sian, shaking free his restraints and standing.  “Much as it has been for the last few weeks.  Let me ask you this…”  He crosses the floor, approaches her, kicks her brother to the floor, reaches down and drags her to her feet: “Are you done running now?”

“Are you done running now?”

Sian is back in the basement, and Audsley House is nothing more than a rapidly diminishing dream.  Harold is in front of her, a pair of bloodied pliers in one hand.

Fear takes a hold of her, draining her of strength and thought.

Fear, then pain; her mouth feels tender, almost spongy: the taste of copper pervades.

“She’s awake again,” says Harold to Fiona and Robert, whose outlines are now barely distinguishable in the gloom of the cellar.  “Not sure for how long, though.”

“I wonder where she goes to in that head of hers?” asks Robert, his curiosity genuine.

“Who cares?” snaps Fiona.  “She’s back now, and it’s about time.  We better get on with it; it’ll be soon be morning.”

“I’m not sure,” begins Harold, ignoring Fiona’s insistence.  “The mind is fascinating, its reach is vast, especially under duress…which Lil’ Miss Toothless here has surely been. However, I’ve no interest in the mind; it is the flesh that we’re concerned with.”

Sian, now all too aware of her predicament, tries to speak.

Harold leans in close to her and scrutinizes his handiwork.  “You know, I don’t like the way she is looking at me.  What do you two think?”

Robert and Fiona emerge from the shadows, flanking Harold on either side.

“I’d say she’s defiantly not happy with you,” agrees Robert.

“Always was a prissy bitch,” adds Fiona.

Harold places the pliers to one side and picks up a sturdy hand drill.  He leans in close to Sian once more.  “I think I’ll take your eye.  I’ll make this sporting, though – I’m not a complete monster; which would you prefer to keep?  Your left or your right?”

Sian struggles against her restraints.  She wants to cry for help, even though she knows that none will be forthcoming.  These are her last moments, of that she is certain.

“Left, you say?” asks Harold.  “Do you think she said she’d prefer to keep her left?”

Robert sniggers.  Fiona smirks.

“The consensus among us that you’d prefer to keep your left?

Sian utters a cry born of pain and anguish, stifled by swollen, bloodied gums.

Harold starts up the drill and moves the tip of the drill bit towards Sian’s face.  “Then left is the one I’ll take first…”

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Dan Weatherer
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Dan Weatherer

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Author's Notes: N/A

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