Title: Lament
Author: "Solus Nemo"
Summary: Here is the room in which children's nightmares are born into reality. If you listen closely, you can still hear its evil heart beating.
Author's Note: This is very loosely strung from a dream I had a few nights ago, mixed with my idea for Ashes to Ashes. My dream wouldn't have made it to a chapter two and Ashes to Ashes needed a stronger gallop in the start-off. Oh, and should you wonder about these things, I don't think at all like half of the characters I write about in these opening acts. This is also, might I add, an adaptation from the most haunted house in London, 50 Berkeley Square, since the boys seem to want to stay in the old US of A.

Rating for adult language, violence, themes.
By now you should know that I do not own the television series Supernatural or anything affiliated with it – the WB does. I also do not own 50 Berkeley Square, this is merely my way of appreciating a house that has intrigued me so. This story is completely fictional, a some part of it only happened in one of the painfully vivid nightmares I am prone to, and I imply nothing about no one.

Chapter One ; A Fall From Grace

Wyandotte, Oklahoma. 1909.

As complying with the unwritten rule of horror story writing, the storm of the century rolled quickly into the lap of Oklahoma. Two massive low pressure systems converged above the massive wooden pile on Belmont Avenue, right over the classic iron weather vane; it threatened to wash that black rooster swiftly off of its nesting perch faster than any of the southwestern farmers could cheer for the blessed end of drought. But then they would stop cheering, their words would die off with mouths still hanging open as the weather vane rushed toward them, and they would stare with wide, horror struck eyes. Fear growing from their boots like tree roots, the farmers of Wyandotte would be more attached to their dusty crops than ever wished to be. As the black iron rooster charged to them from the head of a giant wall of water, the grimy men (both young and old) would think of Lieutenant Colonel Custer and his army – that foolhardy man in Montana Territory those few years ago, racing down the hill with his Calvary to those Indians, to his last stand. Surely the farmers would realize too late that this was their last stand, would come to that conclusion when the water swept them away along with the summer drought and weather vane. They would be confused, also, when they found that though the wave had struck them they did not get wet.

The farmers would remove their crossed arms from their faces, would look with wary eyes at the plains, and find the black rooster was still resting pleasantly on the roof of 687 Belmont Avenue. They would never know that the man residing in the mansion's attic room had dreamt up the furious storm, that it was still raging about inside his head, and that the poor boy had yet no notion that beyond the windows the night hadn't a cloud in the sky.

Victor Graham's attic chamber had no windows. Unless one of the local farmers dropped by to tell him about the warm night Wyandotte was having, Victor wouldn't have had any idea. That kind of visit was very unlikely, though, so much so it was bound to never happen. Only three people in the entire town, let alone world, had known that Victor had survived beyond age ten (the birthday in which his brain had stopped growing). Since his parents had died ten and fifteen years ago respectively, only Victor's older brother held the knowledge of the life of a man living in the highest room in the wood and plaster mansion. The tallest room, fit beyond its door with a narrow bed, a bedpan and a single book – worn to the point of shedding pages – but not a single window. Sixteen hours a day Victor was locked into this chamber, only able to tell between two hours of the day when a key fumbled in the lock on his door. To him the super storm in his mind might as well have been a real one, he wouldn't have believed the words of a farmer telling him the night was clear as diamonds.

Because he had been locked in his attic room sixteen hours a day for twenty-five years, Victor also wouldn't have rung truth from the farmer telling him the sun had been out and blazing earlier in the day. To Victor, who was only allowed to descend into the living parts of the house at night, the sun was a myth. Not able to remember the soft feel of its warmth, the crisp stinging of its bite, Victor had written off all of the photograph suns and the painting suns hidden throughout the mansion as the stuff of Greek legend. But he knew the moon all too well, from the soft curves of its face to its deepest secrets, and tonight he had met up with it again.

At nine o'clock each night, long after the sun set and visitors were rare, Victor was allowed to leave his attic room and wander about the house – but never leave it, never. To make sure that most important rule was never chanced to be broken, his older brother Richard made sure to lock every door leading to the outside world and hid the keys away. Richard did this for his brother's own safety, so Victor wouldn't get himself lost or hurt of worse. Victor would thank him profusely for that, also for unlocking his chamber door promptly at nine o'clock each and every evening.

This night, when Victor had heard the familiar scraping of lock and key, he had turned from his scratched wall art and smiled. Stepping over his beaten novel, softly humming his favorite childhood folk song, Victor had waited as the squat door swung inward. The hand clasping the English-style doorknob was a familiar one, one with the scent of soap and spice, and Victor gaily tapped his fingers together.

When the door opened far enough for Richard's head to appear, bathed in the light from Victor's lone candle, the younger man had waved happily. Richard, looking into the room with his age worn face, had shifted his stern face into a smile.

"Richie. 'Lo."

The man with the greying hair had begun to turn around, leaving the door fully opened and pressed against the attic room's south facing wall. "Hello, Victor. Made more art today, have you?"

Victor had blown out his candle and scuttled over to the door, started down the steep steps waiting on the other side of the jamb. "Yes! I made one of the horses in your paintings." He had smiled, his flat eyes glossy.

When he had walked down the staircase to the second floor, Victor had run off the the library. He did that every night, choosing a new (but just as broken) book to bring up to his room and sitting in a chair by the window. For four hours Victor would stare out into the vast Oklahoman twilight, wondering what it would have been like to have been born normal – to have been able to go out into that night and dance in the summer parched hay fields. For four hours he would stew like most children do. Four hours would go by in one pass of the grandfather clock's ancients hands, with Victor settled in his chair and gripping his brittle book so tightly parts of its cover turned to dust in his hands. Four hours, one magestic chorus of "why?"s wafting across the black velvet sky, crescendoing with a hundred voices just as the storm in Victor's head peeled back the roof of the wooden pile on Belmont Avenue. His other four hours were spent playing, eating, exploring the house, frowning at the pictures and paintings that depicted myths.

Richard would come out of his bedroom at five o'clock in the morning, never a minute before of after. Victor knew enough to come to his brother's bed chamber five minutes before the ceremonial door opening, all ready to go for another sixteen hour run in the attic room. Without any words, the Grahams would move up toward the tallest peak of the house, each alone with their vastly different thoughts. More often than not Victor's "why?"s would come back to him. He would follow his brother with a shuffling gait, head down, wondering why his brother must have things so far better than he.

Why is Richard aloud to sleep in a bedroom in the main part of the house when I am not? Why can't I come down in the daytime like Richard? Why am I not allowed to set a foot beyond the foyer when Richard does every day, when Richard goes outside all of the time? Why must I be held up in my drafty chamber when I've done nothing wrong? Why must I be hidden away when company comes, and why can't I ever meet them? Why I am being treated so much like a chicken in a cage? I cannot lay eggs, I cannot brawk, I cannot flap my wings for I have none!

The cacophony would be at its highest when Victor would follow his brother to the stairs. They were small and steep, stretching and twisting up to the promise of days worse than death, but Victor never protested. Eyes on his feet he would wind up and around behind Richard, who jangled one single key on a brass ring obnoxiously. Thirty, that was the number of stairs it took to reach the flat, curving landing of the main attic off to the brother's right, how many seconds during which the metallic jingling was momentarily ceased. The moon was waning, but there was still enough light to get another (and symmetrical acquiring, being as how they recieved one going down) kiss on the cheek before the Grahams ascending the ten remaining steps to the foreboding attic room. Richard started shaking the key noisily about its ring again.

The landing was short, its girth nothing special, but even so Richard moved aside to let his handicapped brother through the chamber door. When Victor went in, scuffling his shoes against the hardwood floor, the elderly man began to pull on the knob to the door of the inner sanctum.

"Richie? Hey, Richie."

He raised his head and stopped moving the door, eyebrows raised and inquiring.

Victor had his shoulders raised, head down and staring at the old candle in its waxy tray. "If I should have another bad dream, Richie?"

With his left hand, the one not on the doorknob, Richard motioned toward a long black chord with a fraying red tassel in the corner of the room by the door, it was attached to a bell on the wall outside of the room.

"If you don't hear it, Richie? If you don't come?" Victor moved anxiously on his feet, looking at his brother with wide eyes – wide, flat, glossy eyes that hinted at something deeper, darker.

"I always come," Richard reply softly, lovingly. "Good morning, Victor, and don't neglect your candle."

The man-child moved his gaze to the candle again, scowled deeply, and squatted down onto his haunches to light it quickly. "G'morning," he said into the strengthening flame. Smartly, Victor picked up his recently apprehended book from its spot on the floor in which he put it to light the candle, and walked in determined steps to the bed.

Richard re-commenced the closing of the door, saying a "I love you, Victor" to the small gap in the jamb before shutting it all of the way. With his key, Richard locked the door and tested it, walking back down the wooden spiral staircase when he couldn't turn the knob. He was about to cross through the door to the second floor when he heard several quick yanks on the servant's bell. Richard turned around, looking up into the slowly lightening darkness of the stairs, and was met by Victor's horrendous, blood chilling screams.


Wyandotte, Oklahoma. Present day.

Looking out of the dingy windows of the house it was a calm, quiet night on all fronts. There wasn't a cloud in the oil trough above the trees, the moon and billions of little stars in the sky lit up the first snow of the season like white fire. The leafless oak trees, taller than God, were sprinkled with powdered sugar and the rose bushes, though they were more overgrown weeds, shone like a beacon across the grounds.

Yes, the night landscape surrounding 687 Belmont Avenue might have been called beautiful if the house itself didn't have a busted heater. Those dingy windows, they leaked, and cold drafts waltzed into the rooms through the ancient rat holes. The lights flickered and buzzed, like the wiring could actually feel the winter air, and there was no wood to light the old stove with. The house, slanting on its foundation and slowly falling apart, could really ruin a Robert Frost kind of moment.

Even if the building had been pristine, however, all the Frost poems in the world wouldn't have been able to erase the stories surrounding the house, the stories that kept sensible people out and the party-hearty folks in.

One of those party-hearty folks, a blonde boy, scoffed. Sitting at an old and busted table in the building's kitchen with his two male friends, he folded his poker hand and looked across the piece of furniture to one of his crewcut buddies. "You expect me to believe all those stories, don't you? You really think I'm going to humor you by acting all scared, shaking all over and saying I won't do it anymore? Let me tell you something, Marv, you're not worming me out of two hundred big ones."

The kitchen, it was obvious to tell, had at one point in time been the talk of the town. It was huge, with its wood burning stove still sitting peacefully in a nearby corner, though its cupboards were now a dingy, greenish red (in its hay day probably the color of wine in the sunlight). All the appliances were gone, but when they had been in the kitchen it was evident there had been a lot of them, and the claw foot tub that the yesteryear folk used was out on the porch – cracked, yellowed, choked with weeds, but quietly hinting to its past life as a funky pot for vibrant flowers. The floor was ghastly, a non original white tiling that had gone black and red and green and orange with stain and rot. The rickety dining-turned-poker table with its only three chairs (a person could chance sitting in, that was) were the only furnishings left in the once grand room.

"I'm not worming you out of anything," Marvin replied in a naturally shrill voice. "I just thought you might want to know what the fuck you're getting into before you go up there."

The third of the party, a brownish red head littered with freckles, laughed and shook his head. "Fine time to tell him you can't pay up, man."

"I can so pay up," Marv said indignantly. "Two hundred bucks, that's nothing. You're not going to be able to do it anyway," he directed at the blonde. "You really want your skin shorn off, Craig? I don't think Jenny'll like that very much, banging a skinless fag."

Craig rolled his eyes. "That's all bullshit. I can't believe you're stupid enough to believe all that. Oh, no," he added mockingly, "the lights are flickering. The monster's gonna come and eat me, gonna lock me away in that attic room and eat me." He waved his hands in the air, mouth open wide in a silent scream.

Overtly unamused, Marv set down his royal flush and smirked. "Go ahead and do it, then, ya fuckin' fag. You've been sitting there, talking about it for a half hour now and you haven't even moved your left ass cheek. Go ahead and do it if you're so man enough." He arched his left eyebrow and leaned back in his creaky chair with his arms crossed over his chest. It was a trademark move, so much so that the people in town were positive Marvin Deepneau had done it since the womb. There was a hefty betting pot in the public high school that the kid even slept in that pose – if only someone could actually remember to bring the camera to the boys nights.

"You're the tits, Marv," Craig complimented sarcastically. "The absolute tits." He was hissing as he pushed out his chair and stood up, absentmindedly brushing potato chip crumbs from his jeans. "This will be the easiest two hundred bucks I've ever made. Christ, blinking is harder."

The dirty red haired boy, naturally not wanting to get into anything involving sides, weakly threw up his arm toward the north wall. "Remember to ring the servant's bell once if you need something, two quick jabs if you're in trouble."

Craig shook his head, smiling wryly. "If I'm in trouble, like, serious trouble, man, how am I suppose to ring the bell twice? I might have my skin eaten by the time I yank the cord once."

That was why dirty red, a poor kid dealt the name Till (his family was Scottish, for crumbs sake, nowhere near the alps), rarely talked. "How are we suppose to know you're in trouble, dude, if you don't right the damn bell?"

Craig flipped his friend off and turned to Marv. "Get ready to pony up, sucka."

"Just shut the fuck up and do it already," Marv replied hastily.

Taking his hoodie from the back of the chair he had been sitting in, poorly hanging it over his too large sweatshirt, Craig ran out of ways to buy time. He sighed – tried to make it one of those "I don't give a rat's ass about this shit" kind of sighs – and turned to the kitchen doorway. "The whole rest of the night, huh? If the monster ain't gonna kill me, the boredom will."

"We'll be sure to fix you up with a fitting eulogy, then," Marv said happily. "But until then, you pussy, get your ass moving!"

"I'm going, I'm going."

Putting his hands into his black, Nine Inch Nails hoodie pockets, Craig tugged down on it. He cast a long look at Till, sitting there and sucking on a pretzel stick like it was a cigarette, and shot his best friend Marv a look of total self-satisfaction.

"Try not to go blind while I'm gone," he suggested, making a gesture with his hand. "I know how lonely you get without me."

Marv sneered. "Don't be obscene, cowboy."

Smiling, shaking his head, Craig left the dimly lit kitchen and proceeded to the supposedly haunted attic room. He didn't believe any of it, the whole bit about a demon hiding out up there that kills anyone who goes into the room, but if was going to be getting two hundred bucks out of sitting up there like an idiot….

There was a long hallway off of the kitchen, serving both the dining and powder rooms. The dining room sat in the milky light of the moon – crystal chandelier laying shattered on the floor in a pool of dust, all but one of its stone tears gone and sold for drug money. It was barren of dining furniture save one splintered chair, resting in front of a torn section of yellowed wallpaper. The powder room, across the hall to Craig's left, sat behind a crooked door. The toilet had been ripped from its bearings, all the tiles were chipped or completely missing from the floor, and you could wait a million years but the sink would keep pumping brown sludge. It was like something from a bad crack film, that half bath.

The hallway drained into what might have been a formal sitting area, but was now an orgy pit. It stunk of sex, the walls even seemed to be dripping with it, and Craig wouldn't have touched the musty couches or bean bag chairs with a sterilized barge pole. Hell, he would have bet that just breathing in the air in the room would get you some screw ball STD. He peeled back his upper lip, seeing too many stains on too many surface areas to be even the least bit comfortable. Craig wasn't a prude, but he would never "do it like they do on the Discovery channel" on old, stained, sex reeking furniture either. This house had been abandoned since the 1970s, God knew what when on in this room then.

Through the orgy – and things that must not be spoken of – pit and into the front hallway. The floor, a once beautiful rose wood, was now burdened with scratches down to its very heart. In places were an ogre with a grudge hadn't taken house keys to it, the wood panels were faded or bleached from burnt alcohol, some spots ripped up altogether. It was a pity, but the tagged walls more so. Gangs had come to this wooden pile on Belmont Avenue to leave their mark (or to annihilate the calling cards of their rivals), kids had professed their love (or intense hate), where others still sold themselves or others, like girls named Jamie or guys named Nick. Compliments ("Tom's hung like a fucking moose") and insults ("Steph's the worst lay I ever had"), peace ("'People are people'") and those against it ("Death to crackers!"). It was a melting pot for the world as it stood today. It was beyond depressing, so Craig quickly moved away and to the stairs.

The treads creaked loudly, the risers were warped and cracked, and the banister wobbled. Beside Craig all the way up to the second floor were the discolored signs of where family portraits used to hang. In the olden days, men and women from the old country were proudly displayed here for all to see, then in the latter kid's football games and reunions and vacations. Now it was nothing more than a grey and peeling, ghostly memorial to lives once lived.

On the second floor now Craig, tensing up when he put too much pressure on the landing and caused it to shriek, began to head to the far end of the narrow hallway. He passed by bedrooms, their doors open with yanked-from-street-curbs-or-the-local-landfill mattresses sitting in the middle of the floor, sending out signal waves of booze and drugs and more private sex than the formal living room. He walked by a couple of bathrooms; one with a shattered mirror and horrifically lime stained porcelain but in otherwise decent shape, the other looked like it had played victim to an early practice session with the Sex Pistols. There was a library up there as well, a good sized one with tattered drapery and near empty built in shelves. Craig wanted to laugh when he saw a fatally neglected oriental rug, thought of how much his mother would have freaked out if she had ever seen it. Chuckling at the image of Jenna Brady flipping her wig, Craig moved on down the hall.

At the end of the disgraced runway it turned into a T, the long part of it serving what Craig had so recently been gawking at. To the right were the servant's rooms, doused in blackness because one person too many had taken a baseball bat to the lightbulbs and stinking of a kind of unease Craig didn't want to mess with. To the left, shot with dingy, blinking light, was the entrance to the attic. The door seemed to be missing, but traces of it still remained, as if a beast had tried to rip the thing from its hinges and succeeded in doing so, yet left behind a few splinters still clinging to life on the hinge pins. Craig didn't like that image, of some ungodly creature snarling and pulling a door away from its home, but he couldn't back out because of that.

"Two hundred bucks, baby," he told himself softly, "two hundred bucks."

With a deep breath Craig turned left, sprinted as fast as he could while still being macho through the kidnapped door, and didn't stop until he was a good ten or fifteen steps up the staircase. There it had turned enough to hide the ragged remnants of attic door, making the image leave Craig's "pacific oceanic green eyes" (as Jenny liked to call them) but the more important bodily organ, his mind. He stood on the steps, absently leaning against the wall – it was brown in spots, he certainly wouldn't have consciously touched it – and tried to bring his breathing back to a normal pace. He was huffing and puffing, not at all a good thing thing to do with his "ass-mar" (Lord of the Flies was Jenny's favorite book, sue him for being a lovestruck teenager). Usually he never needed his fast acting inhaler, not after all those years of having been told by his parents that most of the sickness was in his head and not his windpipe, but for safe measure Craig patted his back pocket to make sure it was there. It was, cool beans, and it helped Craig relax

(That's the key thing really, Mom says. Relax, keep calm, and you've won half the war.)

enough to take in deep, even breaths. When his heart stopped pounding, when his throat wasn't going to be seizing up on him, Craig opened his eyes and dropped his shoulders from his ears. He pressed the back of his head against the old plaster wall behind him, and worked on willing himself up the stairs to the so-called haunted attic room.

"Buff up, beef cakes," he whispered in the tell-tale tone of a man who talks to himself far too often. "You're a Brady. Not a Tom Brady, unfortunately, but a Brady all the same. Don't blow the fucking play, man."

Chewing on his lip – something stress releasing to do while his eyes were open – Craig looked up the stairs. They seemed in a lot better shape than the rest of the house, the steps and working lightbulbs at least, and so the blonde with the pacific ocean green eyes and ass-mar started up them again with the great confidence of not falling through them, the steps.

After another fifteen to twenty steps, Craig came to the last stop on the party train. The attic, to the right of the sweeping porch he was now on, was another orgy pot or drug hang out or gang shooting gallery. It was lit softly and eerily from the moon through the windows, which were either broken (making the stairwell bearably chilly) or so dirty they might as well have been knocked out. He stood standing on the last refuge before an attic room surrounded by creep-out stories, looking into the storage area in front of him with squinted eyes. In the gauzy gloom he couldn't make out much of anything, a few boxes here and there, some trunks, an old fainting couch, and he sighed. Sweeping his eyes to the left as he turned his head, Craig registered mundane attic floor or wall until a figure leapt out at him silently as a cat.

Craig's scream caught in his throat as he jumped backward, waving his arms in the windmill motion the geeks use when fighting, and came perilously close to losing his footing and falling all the way back down the stairs to the ravaged attic door – meeting it with a hammered in skull and hemorrhaging brain. He sputtered helplessly as he waited for a knife to be driven into his chest, for hands to wrap around his neck and twist, for a bullet to bore into his head, but nothing like that ever came.

His heart racing, legs shaking, and forearms crossed and raised to protect his face, Craig soon got to wondering what was taking the stranger so long to kill him. Maybe he had a bad leg, or emphysema, or something and had to take it slow. Well, that was fantastic, it only added to the heart-stopping terror Craig had been plunged into. But several moments passed, a minute and then two, without anything happening. No freak with a chainsaw and hockey mask came lumbering toward him to slice off a limb, and that got Craig thinking about his better judgment. Slowly lowering his arms, opening one eye and then the other, Craig looked out into the stairwell and attic before him with bated breath and a severe wince etched into his face.

Nothing. There was no one in this part of the stairwell or what part of the attic he could see, no one anywhere other than he himself. It was a spooky conclusion, one that made him snap around to look down the stairs and whiz back forward to look up them. Still nothing, still no one. But he had been positive that someone or something had lunged out at his face, he didn't just imagine it. Craig Brady might have been the asthmatic head of the golf club, but he didn't suffer from delusions.

He dropped his arms, perplexed, and huffed loudly – glad to be alive yet frustrated for not being dead. Taking hesitant steps to the storage area of the attic, Craig felt his heart try to break free of its rib cage binds. He swallowed thickly, hands shaking, stomach in knots, and brought himself to the exact position he had been standing in when the thing popped out at him. Looking right to left, slowly and thoroughly, Craig was feeling rather stupid and calming down – that was, until he was being jumped on by the shadowy figure again.

Yelping, Craig started to throw weak, malformed punches in the direction of the freaky stranger. He began to move forward, forward, until his fists met some kind of cloth-y material, driving him to punch with more fervor. With his eyes shut, yelling meekly, Craig tried to bash the thing into oblivion until it slowly teetered over and crashed to the floor. It was heavy, whatever it was, and make an odd hollow, metallic sound as it met the floor.

Smiling, filling with pride, Craig opened his eyes. He laughed – "yeah-ha" – and made to spit on what had tried to attack him. But then some meanie came along and took a pin to his pride balloon because, looking down in the direction of the thud, Craig realized he had killed an old fashioned clothes model.

"Oh, shit."

Craig felt like an ass and hooked the left side of his upper lip. Craig was an ass, a stupid ass who just attacked an even stupider clothes model. But still…. He ran up the half dozen or so steps to the enigmatic attic room, pulled the short and very heavy wood door closed behind him, and stood in the dark shivering with paranoia.

Moaning and wheezing like a donkey for several minutes, forehead pressed against the door, Craig counted himself as safe. If there had been someone in that attic, betting on Craig to assume that the only harmful thing in there was the model, waiting in the shadows and creeping up on him with a dagger in hand ready to slice Craig like a pig and spill his – Craig quickly spun around and clawed blindly at the room behind him. He kept his back pressed firmly against the wall, pushed his body into it like he'd pass through the thick slab of wood, and clawed and kicked and spat at the darkness.

He eased his nerves down considerably by delving into his fit and, eventually, Craig had enough of his schizoid actions. Confident that if there was someone out there he couldn't get in without Craig knowing about it, he stopped trying to pass through the door like a ghost. Laughing at himself, though it was strained and uncomfortable, Craig took his flashlight from the back pocket of his jeans not housing his inhaler. Turning on the torch, focusing its beam slowly about the room, he sighed at what he saw.

Craig was going to be spending the night in a tiny room with a hard and most likely freezing hardwood floor, with no lighting system and without a stick of furniture. It was covered in a foot of dusty, absent in some spots and built up in others (caused by other visitors he was sure), and there were old paper scraps scattered all over the place. Again he sighed, studying these dismal surroundings.

He made sure to check where the servant's bell was, in a corner of the room behind him, and walked three or four steps into the middle of the room. Craig didn't want to have to sit down on the floor, but the ceiling was better suited to anyone less than his six feet and four inches. He considered stooping until his legs and back simply couldn't take it, but then he noticed something off to his upper right. He pointed his flashlight beam at it and chortled. It was book, a very old and extremely ragged book, covered in an inch of dust. Craig went over to it, meaning to pick it up and page through it (he was a slow reader and it was a thick book, he'd just about finish it when the clock timed for him to leave) when he noticed some etching in the wall in front of him.

When Craig came in, when he first ignited his electric torch, he hadn't been paying attention to the walls. But now, pointing the bright beam outward and turning around in a small, slowly forming circle, he was a little creeped out to say the least.

Someone – maybe the same someone waiting for him in the storage area – had taken a sharp object to the wood paneled walls of the room. All four of the walls and, now that he was looking for it, parts of the floor and the ceiling right above his head were covered in drawings. Most were just crop circle-like things, doodles that meant absolutely nothing in human, but others stabbed Craig in the heart with unease greater than the servant room wing on the second floor. People, animals, buildings, random objects like baseballs and buggies, and they were all drawn by someone with a child's hand. Not a child himself, not with arcs of death spread across the walls, but by someone with a young hand; the lines were shaky and the drawings premature, but the subject matter was more grown-up than the majority of adults wandering the world.

Shuddering, Craig walked over toward the door and stood in front of the servant's bell. It was a moldering black chord (braided velvet, maybe) with a red tassel that seemed on its last breath. Glad that it was still there, though it was most likely going to disintegrate when and if Craig ever pulled it, he set his flashlight on the floor and took off his hoodie. Setting it in the corner just below the bell pull, Craig sat down on it and picked up the flashlight again. For a long moment he stared at the book, but then decided against it; he didn't want to read it, not if it belonged to whoever dolled up the walls like they did. So, leaning back to rest his head against the wall, Craig reached an arm up – he could reach the black chord with inches to spare – and then dropped his hand back into his lap. He shut his flashlight off, not wanting to have to look at the decorations on the wall, and settled himself in for a long stay.

He hadn't been there long when something roused him from his contentment, when something interrupted his singing recitation of one of the older Death Cab for Cutie albums. That pissed Craig off slightly, being cut off like that in the middle of "405", and he was about to voice his annoyance when he snapped his jaw shut.

Craig was alone… alone was Craig… but that noise had come from inside the room.

Starting to wind himself up again, Craig looked to the door. It was only a raven's width away from his right shoulder and it was an old heavy door, surely he would have known if someone had come in. And he had looked around the room, there wasn't a microphone or tape player hidden anywhere, was there? He didn't think so. It couldn't have been in the book, not with the dust on and around it undisturbed. Christ, he was just a kid trying to make a couple hundred bucks, he didn't need to keep freaking out like this. His heart couldn't take much more of this and neither could his asthma.

"Sucks to your ass-mar," he mumbled under his breath, trying to calm his animalistic heart and racing mind. "Sucks to your–"

Craig's flashlight clicked on by its own means, sending a bright white cone of light off in front of him. He screamed, but not because his electric torch was flicked on by something other than him. He screamed because of the something standing before him. It wasn't of this world, wasn't from heaven and sure wasn't from hell – even hell would spit something like that away like a rancid peppermint. It was hideous beyond words, slimy and black and tall and red eyed and foaming at a mouth that seemed to only be hanging on by one jaw joint and it's teeth – oh god, it's teeth!

Still screaming, his throat turning into something much rawer than blisters that have burst, Craig tried to swing his hands up toward the servant's bell chord. He couldn't take his eyes off the thing in front of him, oozing from open sores and sweating something puss green with a smell fouler than sulfur. And it was starting to bend down.

Craig Brady was allowed the ability to wrap one hand around the – yes, it was – braided velvet chord, but not the chance to pull down on it once, let alone twice.