The Little White House
“It is from the Bible that man has
learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a
― Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason
Peter’s heart beat belligerently against his chest. A vivacious vibration that caught his every breath, but refused to push the blood that had congregated in that heart to the remainder of his body. He was cold.
Fear had frozen him.
Late night street dwellers didn’t linger in his path as he ran, flinging himself along the cobbled lanes. He was in such a dishevelled, and frankly ungentle-manly state, that those who had the misfortune of coming across him gaped openly as he bounded passed them. None of that mattered though, not their stares or his battered and bleeding body. The appearance he projected to these people who passed unknowingly by him each day had long since fled his mind. All that mattered in that moment was that he ran. That he did not stop.
He knew the path well. He had aimlessly strolled the length of this particular trail on those rare glorious summer days more times than he could count, but never had he sprinted along it with such a crippling dread. He covered more ground than he thought possible with each passing step, yet with each bound he fought to push himself even an inch further. He would not be too late. He could not be too late.
Rounding from the near deserted inner city boulevard he continued his race along an alley that had him leaving the safety of Bourgeoisie London for the quite often treacherous slums that surrounded it. Here not a soul spared the ragged but well-dressed man a glance. They knew better.
Each second brought him closer. Inch by inch.
As he neared his restraint crumbled and he found himself screaming.
Peter couldn’t recall how many times the lone word left his lips in those last few feet. How much desperation each call held. The slight glimmer of hope that remained for only as long as it took him to round that final bend and lay eyes on the scene that broke him, completely.
A lone, young man sat leaning against the doorway of the house at the end of the street. He had been placed there to guard the contents of the small, white house behind him with his life if need be.
The soldier had fulfilled his creed.
The boy’s beautiful but empty eyes gazed up at Peter as his body shuddered to a halt on the doorstep of the house. His feet brought him closer without his will, allowing him to place a cool hand against the boy’s even cooler cheek, to take in the gash that left his throat a crude collar of crimson. It was so deep that it had struck the boy’s spine.
To have taken the soldier’s life.
Peter’s quivering hand pushed at the door that the boy was perched upon and the corpse fell limply inside. Shadows consumed the boy’s body just as they had the rest of the house, and it’s now still occupants.
He moved inside robotically, stepping over the boy who was beyond his aid, and finding himself within the hall where he had too many memories. In which he had worn too many smiles. Loved too much.
It was foreign to him now. The welcoming sofas and Persian rugs were shrouded in shadows and overcome with the chill that accompanied death. Barely three feet from where the boy now lay, another still soldier appeared from the shadows. The soldier’s scarlet life had soaked through the rug upon which he was sprawled. His throat too had been gouged to the point that there was barely a thread of flesh left. The protruding spinal cord was the only thing that held the soldier’s skull to remainder of the body.
Peter lifted his eyes from the second unrecognisable corpse, stomach churning within him, only to have his gaze caught by the walls themselves. Blood dripped from portraits that hung askew and torn on the once cream walls, but that wasn’t what held him in place. Paralysed.
Impaled against that wall was a man. Or what remained of him.
His limbs were strung up and held in place with blades that penetrated through the flesh and bone of his wrists, throat and torso, pinning him to the wall with his arms wide open in full view of the doorway – as if to welcome the guests his killer had known would arrive. To welcome the man who still stood only a few steps within the room staring at the scene that had been created just for him. Because of him.
It was that thought that broke Peter from his daze. Had him once again sprinting. Screaming.
He flew straight past the impaled carcass, sparing the plump and barely recognisable form of the estate owner not even another glance before thundering up the spiralling stair case to the left of the man’s dilapidated form. Peter refused to slow. Not even to properly examine another two derelict corpses he found, both staring emptily ahead, their blood gradually tainting each step as it continued to drip rhythmically from one to another.
The lady of the house lay abandoned not much further from them, at the edge of the second floor landing. Arms splayed above her head, resting on the last few steps of the twisting staircase, exposing what remained of her bare chest and frozen, petrified eyes. Her gown had been torn away leaving her pale flesh, splattered with gore, uncovered and the true horror of the wounds that had been inflicted apparent.
Her chest cavity had been torn away.
That sight brought him momentarily to a halt, but he couldn’t bring himself to touch her. To violate the still body further.
To move at all for a moment.
Fear had consumed him for a second time.
He could no longer sprint as the adrenaline left his veins, rendering them to lead – heavy and sluggish. Instead he stepped over the molested woman steadily, continuing in a state of growing shock along the hall at the top of the staircase. It seemed that every inch was stained scarlet.
Bloody handprints ran up and down the walls. Smearing them a disgusting brown in areas as it dried leisurely. His fear-crazed mind likened it quite disturbingly to a child’s finger paintings, so crude and unintelligible, and in some places even shockingly bright. The sight almost burned. It would have brought him to his knees, gasping in horror, if he had seen nothing like it before. But he had. And would again.
Fear clenched at his heart, propelling him reluctantly forward.
The dead woman’s rib cage had been butchered and discarded half way along the corridor. Her disfigured lungs and innards had suffered the same treatment not far from it.
The door at the end of the hall was slightly ajar. Blood tainting its handle.
The Heiresses’ heart – trickling crimson tears along the white wood to the floor from where it was skewered – was impaled with one of the missing ribs, to the mahogany door.
With a hand that shook more forcefully than it ever had, he gently swung open the door, revealing the entirety of its contents. Or lack there of.
The room was deserted.
Each step he took inside seemed to take longer than the last. His heart had reached such a panicked rhythm that he could no longer feel it beating at all. Instead it merely quivered endlessly, and without the slightest pause. Reaching the centre of the small room, illuminated only by the now high and vivid moon that shone through several windows in the room, he paused, letting rain drip lethargically from the roof to his cheek. His forehead.
A creek behind him had his temporarily dazed senses snapping back into place and his body whirling to face the door through which he had entered. A woman stood where he had only moments ago. She stared at him with an expression he so little associated with her familiar, brilliant emerald eyes. Dread.
The shaking had not ceased, his heart had not slowed, and when he spoke his voice wavered uncontrollably. His eyes pleaded her to lie to him.
More water fell from the roof only to trail along his cheek like a tear.
He needed her to tell him he was wrong.
Another drop splashed against his skin.
But he knew. He had known as soon as he entered the house what he would find.
“It’s not raining. Is it?” He whispered, voice barely louder than the drops that still feel without pause from the roof.
Those emerald eyes didn’t falter. They held his gaze, and would as long as he needed them too. He had counted on that throughout their numerous years of friendship. He relied on her never vacillating strength, and as he stared, more vulnerable than he had stood in decades, she did not falter.
She watched him evenly, even as his world shattered, and answered him truthfully, as he had known she would.
So gradually that it felt as if he were not moving at all he lifted his eyes.
The still, battered, corpse of a woman hung from the roof.
The remaining ribs from the governess’ chest impaling her to the ceiling so that she remained staring down at him as if her deep cobalt eyes could still take him in. Might still light up with joy at the sight of him.
Blond, bloody curls hung down framing her pale face. The once startling blue eyes were now dull against the vibrant blue of her cold lips. Her gown, too, had been ripped from her. Leaving the beautiful body he had once adored almost bare, blood coating every inch of it. It dripped from the open wounds in her neck and chest. Falling from her wounds to stain a trail along his cheek.
One crimson tear after another.
The cry was no longer desperate. No longer hopeful. There was no hope left in him.
He was too late.
The woman in the doorway was beside him before he realized that his knees had begun to give way, catching him in an iron grip before lowering him to the dusty, wooden floor despite the blood that had pool beneath him. It soaked through his trousers. Her skirts. But neither of them moved.
Her arms wrapped around him mechanically, holding his heaving body and letting the blood from the girl above them splash against her long, raven locks. Her ivory skin. Dark gown.
But never him.
She held herself over him, shielding him from the constant crimson droplets that had already blemished his cheeks. Kept a single, gentle hand over his eyes. Shielding him from the sight above him.
But the damage was done.
Some time later, when the bloody drizzle had quelled and his quivering form became limp, he spoke. The murmur was broken, childlike. Two traits the woman who held him had never associated with the lean but muscular, dark haired man in her arms.
“I’m here.” She vowed. The words, while barely a whisper, seemed to echo in the lifeless house. Break the delicate denial that had surrounded them both for the minutes while she held him. “I’m here, Peter.” She repeated stroking the damp hair at the base of his neck soothingly. Whether it was blood or sweat that had soaked it through she didn’t know. She merely continued to run her fingers over his bare skin tenderly. It was a rare motion for her, tenderness. Much unlike the horrific scene they had stumbled upon, or crippling sensation of loss.
They were far too common.
Another ooze of blood fell from the corpse that neither allowed themselves to examine to closely. It struck her forehead. Trickled along the bridge of her nose. Over lips. With trembling fingertips the broken man in her arms brushed it away, smearing it blindly across his own skin when he brought the hand to his cheek, where other drops had blemished his flesh.
“I don’t-I don’t-…why? Why would he-?” The enquiry was almost childlike, "I - I know what I did...I know I - but...but he's my brother. He's my brother - and I - I loved her." He broke off, gasping for breath and shuddering uncontrollably as shock took hold.
"-He's my brother," Peter murmured one last time, the words falling from his lips in a stupor. "Why would he kill her?"
It took moment for Elextra to realise that she didn’t have an answer. That there was no answer.
That there never would be.
“I don’t know.”
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