Explanation by the authors:

Hi all, your resident Scorpion here! ErikaNapoleanica and I have been inspired to team up to write this story together by the CD "Phantom of the Organ / Vampyre of the Harpsichord" (You can find it on Amazon). For those of you who have never heard the CD, it's a bunch of spooky (and rather bad) organ and harpsichord music. I highly recommended it for its humor value! But anyway, the songs have the most hilarious, dark, morbid, disgusting track titles and we could only imagine how fabulous a phic would be if those were chapter titles, and it really ought to be written...So we've done it!

Mwahahaha! Enjoy!

Chapter 1:
Horror of Erik

It wasn't the jacket that caught my attention, but those bright lights that glinted off the silver clasps of the vest drew my eye unavoidably. The black garments fell almost without grace to the sleek floor to leave only the white of shirtsleeves beneath taught suspenders. Now regrettably transfixed, my gaze dropped slowly until a color that perfectly contrasted the stark white consumed the shirt beneath a finely tailored waistband and then, further still, down to the polished black shoes of epicurean Italian leather. They formed the root of a stance that momentarily impressed me in its informal power, and as I left my eyes to linger there a moment more, they moved to step forward, towards me, gracefully avoiding the discarded garments before them. I lifted my eyes then with an attempt at indifference to the sight, but only to become just as interested in the curve of the hand that hung, relaxed at the side of what remained of those black evening-clothes. The long fingers moved once slightly, charming my eye with their simple motion; the long, white, skeletal fingers. Then the hand moved again, slowly, and my locked gaze could not help but follow it, and before I could realize its intention, it was at the collar of the white shirt and had begun to loosen the dark tie. With the ease of practiced fingers, the knot was undone and one more article of clothing fluttered to the floor. But the movement of the fingertips had not ceased, and the moment they began to unfasten the pearled white buttons, I had to look away. But how I regretted that impulse! Immediately as I straightened my neck and lifted my eyes, I found myself face to face with the abhorrence of those distorted features that had never ceased to haunt my nightmares. That ghastly excuse for a face from which there was no escape. My face. Mirrors, how I despise them.

Momentarily unable to look away, I studied my repugnant reflection, deeply hating every instant I stared powerlessly, tormenting myself with the nauseating spectacle. But quickly regaining my sense, I turned away, irritated at such inability to control my own gaze when I had been fully aware that I was not wearing my mask for obvious reasons. But there it was again,the same vile image. My face. I moved once more, stepping back, but it was the same ghastly reflection again, and again! Each way I turned, it met me with growing malice in its expression. Feeling suffocated for more than one reason, I unfastened another button of my shirt. The temperature of the room had almost reached its full intensity, and I needed to concentrate on anything that was not this vicious, recurring likeness of myself. But what else was there? The trees. Their reflections were as numerous as my own; the iron forest and the countless hanging nooses. I would look only at the trees.

Then it began. As the swelling heat beat off the walls and pierced my flesh into my brain, the soft sound of water flowed through the blinding light compelling me with all its torturous temptation to move toward the blistering glass. But I stayed where I stood, only absently kicking aside my scattered garments on the mirrored floor. The mechanics commenced, and a sudden change in the mirrors reflected my image back again into my view. I would not have looked, but the glimpse of how much my appearance had changed in so few moments intrigued me beyond my repugnance. The white of my shirt had passed into transparence where it clung to my body with the perspiration beneath, and as I ran a hand through my dampened hair, it fell into tousled disarray. I had seen enough. Kneeling, I found the latch for the trap door in the floor and flung it open. The sudden siphon of the cool cellar air surprised me in its refreshing contrast; it had been impossible to realize just how lethally extreme the heat had grown, and I involuntarily exulted in the shadows into which I descended.

As I reached the bottom of the steps, the air that filled my lungs was neither fresh nor pure, but it provided relief enough from the thinness of oxygen in the heat upstairs. As I waited for the moisture to evaporate from my skin, my eyes adjusted easily to the familiar darkness and they traveled along the lines of barrels that rested untouched against the walls of my little subcellar.

"Barrels! Barrels! Any barrels to sell?"

My voice soaked gently into the stores of velvety black powder that rested there, and I laughed softly, absently amused by my own sense of humor. My barrels were not for sale. Taking another deep breath, the rise and fall of my chest against the now clammy fabric of my shirt irritatingly reminded me that there was no outlet down here, merely a brief avoidance of my reflection, the truest torture up in that chamber. I had no choice, it was time to face the inevitable, and I eventually returned to go back up the carved stone staircase. Besides, I knew I would not be satisfied with myself until I had experienced to finality the extent of what this chamber, the newly completed addition to my underground palace, had to offer.

Rising again into the mirrored room, the sound of water had long dried away. Barely had I closed the trapdoor behind me when the full impact of the heat struck me with a stomach-turning force that blew all breath from me. My flesh burned and I could hear my very blood boiling. I choked on dry nothing as a pain I had never known bloomed in my chest, and I swayed upon my feet as my head began to reel and the visions of iron trees spun and swam before my eyes waving into tropical vines. I laughed aloud as I stumbled backwards and felt the searing pain of burning glass against my back. Turning quickly to face my fiery adversary, I was rather surprised to see the dark shape of a man in the distance moving toward me through the trees. I laughed again. Who was in my torture chamber? I could not stop laughing then as I continued to move back across the room.

"Go away!" I shouted. "It's my turn. You can have your go when I'm finished!"

Night had begun to fall, and the temperature rose with the moon.

"Finished…" I laughed all the more. "You won't have to wait much longer!"

But then he was gone, disappeared among the giddy woods with their rolling, gnarly roots. And I was suddenly aware of the smell of the leather soles of my shoes baking away against the smooth glass beneath me.

"What kind of desert isn't floored with sand?" a thousand reflections called out to me simultaneously as I laughed wildly at the roving moon.

I stepped aimlessly, briefly observing the movement of two, then six pairs of smoldering shoes. Then I lifted my eyes with the automatic thought to avoid fixating on any reflection of myself and found myself eye to eye with the very real hangman's noose that hung so comfortably on the branch of the only tangible tree in this forest.

"Fancy that," I breathed dryly. "You and I meeting here like this."

And then I laughed again as I stepped up onto the root of the tree and took the rope's lithe body in my hand. It felt cool and it felt pleasant…Inviting. I liked it. Gently caressing it with my fingertips, I lifted it to brush against my cheek.

"Do you like me too?" I ran my other hand up the length of its cord to the gibbet branch above my head. "Do you want to embrace me?"

As I waited with shortening patience for an answer from its gaping fibrous mouth, the pleasing coolness of its smooth exterior began to pass into heated roughness, ignited by my own touch. The relief had only been temporary. All relief would only ever temporary in the torture chamber. Even death. I released the rope, thrusting it back against its metal scaffold and turned, stepping off the root to cross the sandless floor. Many details to be mended.

I sneered at the reflection of my scowl as I pressed the spring to open the door behind the mirror and let myself out of the room. I suppose this trial run of my newest device had been a successful experiment…but obviously only to certain extent. But now new ideas began to flow over me as I passed the threshold and left the tortures behind. Ideas of what I should have done and what I had not done…And the question of why I was even doing it at all. I sighed and closed the hot door, the chamber disappeared, and the cool air of my Louis-Philippe room filled my lungs and enveloped me in its atmosphere of bitter dissatisfaction.

Thanks for reading and hope you were entertained! Please let us know what you think!!

Up next, in accordance with the CD's track titles:

Chapter 2: Depression