In His House
by Peter A. Balaskas
Table of Contents
Part 3 appeared
in issue 264.
A mysterious “Event” has unleashed blistering storms that have trapped a man in a kind of hotel. He finds himself in the company of others who have mutated into physical and moral monstrosities. As the protagonist moves through his strange environment, he struggles to remember his past and his forgotten identity.
He looked up at Francis, whose normally carefree manner was replaced again by his lethal, ice-cold intensity. The painter’s eyes appeared violet. “Now you know why that greedy bastard won’t ever come out again,” he said as he placed the painting against the wall.
He felt a chill throughout his entire body. He shook it away, then turned to leave. “I better go see Christine.”
Francis said, “Before you go, let me ask you one question.” He glanced back at the painter, whose eyes calmed to his normal shade of blue. “All of us have been here for a really, really long time. Maybe years. Yet, we haven’t aged. And none of us have been killed.”
He laughed. “Not yet.”
“No, seriously. All of us have received injuries that should have been fatal: heart wounds, severe blood loss, all of that. No regeneration; scars still remain. But no deaths. Maybe we’re immortal, another side effect to The Event. After you leave Christine’s room, consider this: if we can’t die, maybe the tempest won’t kill us. And if that’s the case, what’s stopping you from leaving?’
Francis was right about the wounds. He remembered Christine impaling Kat through the chest with her talons. She lost a lot of blood, but the wounds healed up, with only four scars remaining on her chest. For the life of him he couldn’t answer his friend’s question. He only waved goodbye, then walked back towards the stairs until he caught sight of Christine’s open door. He knocked and when he saw Christine’s pleasant smile, he went inside.
Near the center of the room were Christine and a giant-sized dollhouse that was almost as tall as her. According to Christine, the miniature and her dolls came along with the room after The Event. It was a two level house, a miniature replica of the one they lived in, only the colors were a variety of oranges, pinks, yellows and all other hues that celebrated life through their brightness. Christine possessed a few male and female dolls and when he sat next to her, he noticed her holding a girl doll that was slightly shorter than the others, with dark brown hair and dressed in a light blue spring dress.
“Is that it?”
She nodded as she studied the doll with meticulous care. “I found her near the food processor. I haven’t had a new doll since The Event. But she’s beautiful,” she said as she stroked her hair. “I named her Marisol. What do you think?”
He froze. Something about the name made his heart skip. No, he didn’t like it at all. And her features, however generic they were, reminded him too much of the girl in his picture. “I guess so.”
She looked at him attentively. “What?”
He paused, trying to find the right words. “Well, it sounds kind of... I don’t know...”
He frowned. He wanted to tell her more, about the name, and especially about the woman from his photo, her likeness and the doll’s. But he only swallowed and said, “Yeah, that’s right.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Looks a lot like your new friend, doesn’t she?” When he didn’t answer, she continued. “You can use the name for your friend if you like.”
He shuddered. This was getting too much for him. He weakly grinned. “No, that name belongs to you.”
She shrugged and shifted her attention back to little Marisol and a male doll, walking them together, hand in hand. “I tried to figure out why I chose that name, but it’s so hard.” She shut her eyes hard, as though she were in pain. When he gently touched her shoulder, she looked at him and smiled. “Doesn’t Francis’s new painting look cool so far?”
“He showed you? I wonder why he wouldn’t show me.”
She walked the doll couple inside the house, then regarded her friend with a look of inquisitiveness. “Maybe you’re not ready for it. ”
Her piercing blue eyes shone, causing him to shiver. “Are you scared of the tempest?”
The color of her face bleached out. The curious china doll turned bitter. “After living with all of these freaks for so many years, I don’t think anything can scare me.”
“But you’re alive. The rest of the world is wiped out and you’re still alive. And they can’t come after you.”
She shrugged. “Just because I’m alive doesn’t mean I’m happy. The only reason why I’m still here is I don’t want to go in the tempest alone.”
She then focused her attention back to her dolls. He saw her clench her hands, as though she were trying to force the negative thoughts from her head. He reached out and caressed her ruby-colored hair. She leaned against his hand, trying to somehow absorb any warmth and compassion from his being. When her disposition brightened and she began to actively play with her figures, he patted her on the back and left the room.
As he turned the corner and faced the center landing, he heard struggling and screaming from Cainye’s room. The door slammed open and Kat’s bony form was propelled outwards. She bounced off the railing, which surprisingly didn’t break from the force of the throw.
She staggered up and then cringed at the bulky, muscular presence of the man himself, who was dressed in a wife-beater tank top, black denims and work boots. His claws were closed into fists and his jaw and nose were elongated, with whiskers sprouting from each side of his face. Wolf-like teeth glowed orange under the green sunlight. His red eyes flamed with outrage at the cringing form. When Kat held her hand up in submission, he turned back to his room.
She screamed, “Wait! Wait! What about me?”
He faced her again, his drooling maw curved upwards into a lascivious grin. “Just her and me tonight. Go take care of yourself!”
She whimpered as he shut the door. She glanced up at her former friend, who just looked at her with pity. Tears streamed from her eyes as she shuffled past him down the stairs and raced through the front door.
He sighed, then looked at the stairs that led from the second level to the attic where the landlord Leech lived. He wished he could just meet the man and find out what he was all about, why hide if he was so powerful? Then again, maybe he turned into another grotesque side effect of The Event and just kept his distance.
He walked downstairs to his room and prayed for the day to end quickly. But he wasn’t alone. He had his haunted companion in the photograph to keep him company, to make his existence tolerable. Before he drifted to sleep, he looked at the tranquil setting she lived in. How he envied her paper prison.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2007 by Peter A. Balaskas