I knew it was coming, I saw it the moment Axel told me he knew my first name but like most of the other things I couldn’t stop it. I nodded at Axel, ready to get this over with. I wasn’t going to encourage them to keep digging and the only way to stop them from leading each other to their death was to make them stop myself.
Axel glanced at his sister who nodded and he stood up, leaving the room. Ariel’s eyes stayed on me as I remained in my position, trying not to think of what had taken place with the window. That feeling of helplessness had scared me more than anything else and I was glad Ariel had been there but what if she hadn’t been.
Axel returned with a file after a while and without even opening it, I knew what was in it. I had learned the same information and still had it stashed in my side table.
“This is the history of this town.” Axel stated, handing the file to me. I placed it on my bed and looked up at both of them. They were looking at me curiously as I leaned back on the bed, sitting with my legs folded.
“You guys should keep away from this information.” I whispered, unable to look at them both but the only reply I got was a frustrated groan from Axel.
“We can’t.” He rumbled out, his voice deeper than usual. “Are you sure you know all the information in that?”
When I nodded, he laughed bitterly, turning around and rubbing the back of his neck. Ariel signed something to him and he just shook his head back. He came and sat beside me on the bed, running a hand through his hair as he looked down at the floor, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration as if he was wondering whether to tell me something or not. Finally he turned towards me, his guarded eyes drinking in my features.
“You know about the deaths then?” His expression said that he knew the answer but he still wanted to confirm it. I reluctantly nodded and his lips turned down into a frown.
His lips parted but before he could say anything, the door slammed open. All three of us jumped but nobody stood in the door way. I frowned and got up, followed by Axel but the moment I stepped outside, the door slammed shut behind me, locking Ariel and Axel in my room.
“Jade? Are you okay?” Axel asked, pounding on the door and jiggling its lock. I tried to turn the door knob but it won’t budge.
“Yeah I am alright.” The moment I uttered those words, a bloodcurdling scream sounded from the other side of the door. I heard Axel yell out his sister’s name before a crash sounded. My own shouts joined his as I called out for Ariel, unaware of what was happening in my room. I could hear my heart beating wildly in my chest as various horrible images flooded into my mind and the agonizing screams once again filled my mind, this time they were of only children, the chilling sounds sending shivers down my spine. My fist started hurting as I kept banging on the door, the chaos going on inside unknown to the people in the building. I wasn’t surprised, my room was situated in the further most part of the orphanage for the exact reason; to not aware the outside world of the crazy freak who resided in the room haunted by something unnameable. I could hear whines, groans and moans inside but they were just background noise compared to the chaos going on in my own head. Finally in an attempt to block out the screams, I put my hands on the sides of my head, my eyes squeezed shut. I backed away from the door until my back hit the wall, my legs wobbling. And just like that, the sounds were gone and finally the door opened by itself, my room a disaster.
The drawers were open with everything spilling out and pages were plastered all over the walls, I looked closer to realize that they were the pages from the file I kept in my side table. My clothes had been strewed across the room and the bed sheet had a huge tear in it. My eyes surveyed the destruction, landing on the two figures huddled in the corner. They were sitting on the floor and Axel was holding Ariel close to him, murmuring incoherent words into her ear while her eyes were wide with fear and she was shivering despite the warm temperature inside the room.
Axel noticed me and beckoned me towards him; I walked slowly and crouched down so I was at eye level with Ariel. Her blue green eyes were swirling with unspoken terror, same one I had seen multiple times in my own eyes. She was covered in a sheen of sweat; they had done this to her. This had been their punishment for her for what happened yesterday. She had helped me and they hadn’t liked that.
“I’m so sorry.” My heart clenched in my chest and my eyes glistened with tears as I choked out the apology.
“This wasn’t your fault.” Axel grumbled out, hugging Ariel tighter as if to rid her of what had happened to her. If only it was that easy. This is why they had to stay away.
“Yes, it was.” I explained it to him and his face remained expressionless, his emerald eyes glinting with an unknown emotion before he just shook his head and stood up with Ariel still clutching to his shirt for life. I gently took her hand and led her to the bed. She slept after half an hour, her breathing the only sound in the room. I stood up and gestured for Axel to follow me, he seemed hesitant to leave his sister but did so.
“You have to stop searching about this stuff. You saw what happens, what they can do.” I sounded desperate but I was. I didn’t want anyone else to go through what David went through.
“That’s what you have been living with?” His answer carried a hint of something I couldn’t name.
“Yes but I have no choice, you guys do.” His eyes inspected every inch of my face before he sighed and ran a hand through his tousled hair. “Look, they mess with minds, alright. I don’t know what they are but they are inhumanly evil. It’s like they feed on fear and I know that you don’t want your sister to go through something like that.”
My heart pounded in my chest as I waited for his answer. I had to try, I had to make them understand that this wasn’t normal research, that they’ll have to pay for it with their lives or something even worse.
“Fine” Relief spread through me until his hands landed on my shoulders, sending sparks through my body. I refused to look into his eyes as the slight tingles spread from his touch.“But if it gets too bad, tell me. Let me at least try to help.”
I nodded, unable to say something and knowing that no matter what happened, I won’t dare involve anyone I knew or cared for. I didn’t want any more deaths on my hands and I wasn’t going to. The whole time Ariel was asleep, Axel stayed with his sister and I tried to distract myself by cleaning up the room. I could sense his gaze on me sometimes but I ignored him, blocking out anymore sounds by plugging in my headphones and playing ‘Metallica’, I wasn’t in mood for Mozart’s or Beethoven’s sweet symphonies.
After the sun had gone down, and the room was clean with my homework finished, Ariel woke up. Axel had fallen asleep in his chair and I walked up to her, taking the blanket she had thrown off of her and placing it on her brother who had a frown plastered across his face. Without realizing what I was doing, my fingers went up to his forehead and smoothed out the wrinkles formed between his eyes. When I turned around, I found Ariel staring at me questionably and I blushed, slightly flustered at being caught even though it was a simple gesture.
“Are you feeling any better?” I asked, making sure to whisper. My voice came out a bit croaky but Ariel simply nodded in reply, her dark hair bunched up on top of her head. I gave her the water I had brought from downstairs along with some snacks. She kept quiet as she sipped the water, before gesturing for me to sit next to her on the disheveled bed. I sat reluctantly, not looking her in the eyes even though I could feel them quizzically burning into the side of my head.
She pointed towards my mobile and I gave it to her, waiting for her to type whatever she wanted to. Her hands shook a little and I could see her petite form still trembling slightly. She was trying to act normal like I had many times even though it was clear that she was shaken up from what had happened before.
I saw their faces; I saw my mother’s face and others. Please, tell me what you know.
I looked up from the mobile to look at her emerald eyes shining with unshed tears. And suddenly, my mind went back to when I had seen her mother fling herself in front of that car. My heart clenched inside my chest and I swallowed, a lump forming in my throat. I shook my head, feeling even worse when I saw her face drop.
“I can’t” I whispered, looking down at the torn sheet. Before I could even process it, Ariel grabbed my shoulder, her grip tight. I gasped and looked up to see her looking at me with a mixture of anger and hurt. “I can’t, Ariel. They will hurt you even more, or might even attack Axel.”
The anger in her eyes immediately dimmed and she let go of me, leaning back against the headboard of the bed and shutting her eyes. She sighed deeply, before reaching for the folder on my side table, I had collected all the pages which had been strewed across the room and put them together. I reached for it but she hugged it to her chest, her eyes pleading me ‘This is my own choice’.
I felt drained, I didn’t want her to read but I let her. Guilt filling me the moment she opened the file but I didn’t stop her. Maybe if she got to know all the information, she’ll leave me and she’ll take her brother with her; away from me, from their death.
While her eyes roamed the file, my mind thought back to the time I had found the information. I was flabbergasted at the fact that nobody in the town was even bothered by it or acted like they knew about it. Like how could they not have realized the number of deaths in such a small town, especially when most of them were categorized as suicide? It should have cause a pandemonium yet it didn’t even stir a leaf.
I remember going year by year and finding the peculiar happenings and when I had realized the pattern between some of the deaths, my blood had ran cold. I had been too scared to further search into that and it still haunted me sometimes because if I was right then the voices were right, my time was near. But I could not figure out why or how; there must have been a reason for the deaths, for the coincidences.
I don’t know how far back it went but my search had been between the 1940s and 1990s, which included the time when the Orphanage building had been converted from a normal mansion. I hadn’t notice anything until I read about the Osborn incident that had happened. In the article on the internet, there had been a picture of the building, the ivy not totally covering it, and the paint on it looking better than it did now but it had the same poignant aura to it. Though, what had caught my eye was the picture of the girl beside it. She seemed young, at most nineteen or twenty. In the black and white photo, I could see the sharpness of her features, the elegant beauty to them. Her hair tied at the top in a graceful bun covered by a blue hat and her body clad in a floral knee length dress with frills on the modest collar. Her smiling eyes hiding a hint of familiar horror as her thin lips were frozen into a slight smile.
Her name was Francis Osborn, and she had been found by the maids in her room in a quite gruesome position. She had been accused of having mental problems and the manner of her death had proven the point. Bile rose in my stomach as the words I had read on the article flashed through my mind. ‘Sadly, the cause of death had been Ms. Osborn’s mental health which had led her to break her own bones with the help of a hammer taken from one of the storage rooms.’
Even though there were no pictures of the death scene, I still shivered at the thought. How could someone willingly break every bone in her body with a hammer? I hadn’t realized I had shut my eyes until the weight on the bed suddenly shifted and I winced at the sound of the bed creaking, imagining the sounds of bones breaking instead. My eyes fluttered open the same moment Ariel shook Axel who woke up with a start, his eyes half closed as he looked around, his eyes landing on me and my stomach churning from the flashing emotions in his green orbs before they looked up at his twin who was avoiding looking at me. Her eyes downcast as she signed something to Axel whose face turned up into one of confusion. Without waiting for him to say anything, Ariel grabbed his hand and dragged him out of my room.
The pages of the file were scattered in the area where Ariel had been sitting, blowing through my lips I started collecting them, a part of me relieved that they would stay away now but another part, a selfish one, distressed and disappointed.
The weeks that followed after that were as normal as they could be, with the Merlyn twins retreating back into their own isolation. I still had nightmares but they weren’t as bad, the screams only greeted me in entrance to the building but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that it was like they were waiting for something. They could never be lenient. Even Mrs. D’onofrio steered clear from me, giving me malicious smiles only from afar. Cara and I even attempted to do some normal teenage stuff which included chick flick marathons and junk food overload; the casualness of the events, for once, making me feel human and not like some freaky experiment.
But I was a fool to think it would last. Because the one night where I decided to have a sleepover at Cara’s after constant persuasion from her side which including slight blackmail of the fact that her parents were going out of town and taking her brothers with them, leaving her all alone in the creaky house for the night, they came back to remind me that I could never be a normal teenager.
We had decided to sleep in the living room but when it started raining out; Cara took the idea back considering her fear of storms. She took the bed in her room while I created a makeshift bed on the floor for myself. I felt like there was something wrong, like a nonexistent presence was around us, around me but I shook off the feeling. Cara hadn’t noticed anything wrong but that could also have been because her whole attention was focused on the brewing storm outside.
It was still thundering outside when Cara’s breaths finally evened, her hands still clutching the pillow like a shield in her sleep. I know it was probably past one as I lay there, looking at the ceiling, my breath coming out like smoke even though the temperature of the room was warm despite the climate outside.
A chill went through my body, and my blood ran cold when I felt someone’s fingers being wrapped around my ankle, making me freeze in my place. The hand tugged but I remained immobile, the pillow dipped and I felt fingers grabbing hold of my hair and tugging painfully emitting a whimper from me. The darkness in the room made it difficult to see and my heart started beating erratically, the fear I was feeling making my body quake in its spot. I squeezed my eyes shut but instead of feeling them disappear, more bony fingers wrapped around the hem of my shirt followed by further hands, all of them grabbing me and tugging painfully yet in my petrified state, I still hadn’t moved. I could feel their nails digging into my skin, their skeletal hands carrying more strength than they were supposed to. I felt a finger skim my cheek and I turned my face, my lip trembling and another whimper leaving my mouth. This was unlike any of my nightmares, and that’s what terrified me even more.
Thunder boomed outside bringing with it, the gentle melody of someone playing a piano, hitting the notes softly and gently. The fingers around me tightened and without my consent, my eyes popped open, confronting an emaciated being. It was a man, his hair sticking to his head like his skin stuck to his bones, molding his face into one of something inhuman, disturbingly matching the features of a vulture. His mouth was stitched shut and his eye socket bleeding red, the blood dripping down his face, making maroon streaks.
I let out a shriek and scrambled back, my back hitting the side of the bed. Lightning struck outside, taking away with it the bony hands and the terrorizing man. But before I could sigh in relief, heavy hands landed on my shoulders, as if someone on the bed had leaned down and grabbed hold of me. They lowered their mouth, stopping right near my ear and whispering riddled haunting words which flowed with the tune floating in the air, as if the words were meant to go with that melody all along.
‘We have not made it painful, not yet.’