Right when I was about to question Marwin, Penny came in and told me it was her idea to resurrect Sawney and Lucius. I regret not listening to her, as I was too shocked in disbelief to control my words properly. If anything, I do not think my words had made much sense to her at all.
And now? She’s dead.
It would be an exaggeration to say I have seen her death right in front of my eyes. But my witnesses are many, and chances are they had seen a similar sight. We wanted to prove her wrong, back then; that the resurrection was nothing but a lie. Somehow, that triggered something within Penny. She invited us to an ouija board; and the way she spoke was of such confidence, I resisted to question her true intentions. Penny being Penny, she was blunt and simple-minded, but why she daren’t challenge her facts began to frustrate me.
Perhaps, her invitation to the ouija board was mutual challenge for us. Perhaps even she began to doubt herself, but used it as a means to determine her direction.
A moment later, there was Normand, Gabriel, Patrizia, Penny, and me, surrounded in front of an ouija board. She had claimed that she had found this in one of those abandoned cellars, but I knew she had brought it with her. Or had she? At this point, I had forgotten that our trip was supposed to last only half a day; and thinking about how dry and old the wood was, it might not be a simple lie.
Nevertheless, I played along. We did those instructions Penny had told us, and the flames lowered into a sharp ambience. The only other thing visible was the reflection on the planchette.
‘Are you aware of us now?’ said Penny.
Nothing happened. Not even a sound, close or far. My breath heaved. At first, an eerie sort of tranquility heightened my senses. The world became a bubble with no way out, rendering me into a prey with no predator.
The planchette dragged downward.
I almost jerked my finger away. After half a minute of silence, the built-up paranoia dispersed all in an instant. Penny was consistent in her calmn, as if she had worked with spirits all too often. It wasn’t long, however, before I returned to my curious self and speculated a trick under her ritual. From there, I watched every little movement with great care.
At first, Penny asked the basic questions: who they are and their relationship with this place. ‘Looks like I win, Utterson. You can go ahead and ask.’
‘Do you want us to leave?’
‘What is it that you want?’
‘Awakening of what?’ This time Penny asked.
‘THE ANCIENT ONES.’
It was then I noticed something odd. The initial calm Penny had imposed began to lose itself. She thought she was in control until she wasn’t. For an occult fanatic, even she didn’t seeem to believe that this was happening to her. ‘This isn’t supposed to happen,’ she mumbled to herself. ‘This is not what I…’
‘...Do you wish for the demise of humanity?’ I asked.
The planchette didn’t move.
‘Do you wish for coexistence?’
The planchette didn’t move. The air became damp and chill.
‘Do you wish to break free?’
The planchette didn’t move. A few seconds later, it crept; one, two…
Gabriel expressed something for the first time. A sour mixture of hatred and irritation painted all over her face, and with a raucous voice she snapped.
‘If you’re truly a spirit, why are you trapped here?’
The planchette stopped. A few seconds later, it crept back to the board of alphabets. ‘BASTARDS,’ it spelled out.
'We? Bastards? What did we do? Why are we trapped here?'
'What “sins”? We don’t even know who you are—'
‘That’s enough!’ shouted Penny.
‘ –right? Or is coming here is a sin on its own?’
‘So what do you want from us? Did you kill Sawney and Lucius?’
'Are you about to kill the rest of us as well? If so, why not kill me, right here, right now?'
Time stopped. We couldn’t move, speak, or imagine the near future. Gabriel’s outlash was reasonable, but the way she said it made us shiver. Patrizia told her to calm down; and though she sat back down, her brown eyes refused to extinguish their flare.
Soon, the planchette lightened. Then my arm, then my entire body. My senses narrowed, floating, darkened. I saw nothing. The room, all black, all lights gone. The corners began to suffocate me, and I felt a warm, dense fluid. But before the dark could best us, we scrambled our way out the room.
‘The culprit was hiding in there the whole time?’ said Gabriel. No one replied; we needed time to process what happened. With a shaky finger, Normand pointed at each of us. Blood was on our clothing. We exchanged widened eyes as we noticed something: one of us didn’t make it.
Gabriel rose up, walking toward and touched the rusty doorknob. Her eyes were stern, duelled between acknowledgement and fear. She peeked inside for a moment. She paused. Staring a little, she flicked the door open.
Penny was there, mangled like a marionette, positioned on the bed in a fetal position. We stepped over the line between safety and horror. We met her gaze and waited for her eyes to move. They didn’t. She slumped in the corner, bathed in blood and displayed like an abattoir animal. A crimson grin smiled back.
My eyes wandered down her face and stopped at her throat. The slash across it had more life than her listless gaping mouth. It taunted me. Blood cascaded like a waterfall down the front, gathering into a small pool. It was the same blood that baptised us.
Gabriel suggested that we leave as soon as possible. I went on to tell Pierre. I didn’t care Marwin was here, but somehow I found myself looking at his reaction the most. He seemed horrified. I wasn’t sure if he was concerned about Penny, or if he was concerned he had to revive her again.
‘Utterson, I…’ Marwin spoke. ‘I’ll take a look at her.’
‘No.’ I blocked him. ‘What are you going to do with her?’
He knew what I was talking about. Still, his grey eyes pierced at me, as if telling me he had no faults. So he wasn’t only a hypocrite, I noted, but a blatant one.
‘Nothing you think he would,’ Pierre interrupted.
‘Come now. Is this a game of suspicion or a game of gossip?’
‘If this isn’t a game of gossip, then don’t you think you should leave this out?’
‘I’m just suspicious, that’s all. But fine. Are you coming or not?’
Marwin’s expression didn’t change. Whipping a turn, I let him to follow me himself.
Gabriel, Patrizia, and Normand were still there. Good. They might as well be framed had they gone somewhere else. Marwin went on the door and gripped the doorknob without a thought. He peeked inside before stepping in. I opened the door a little wider, so I could see every little action.
However, all he did was sigh. He acknowledged it–her body was now devoid of the grace it once knew. With the blanket beside her, he unfolded itand passed the cover over her body. Just over her face, he stopped, looking at her one last time. He shut his eyes tight, looking away before covering her for good. He acknowledged it. She was no longer the person he knew. She was now just another corpse.
Marwin stayed silent for a while, before he blinked. ‘The game…’
I tilted my head. Marwin turned to Normand, who flinched. ‘Sawney and Lucius left to visit me, right? Why didn’t you come with them?’
‘You haven’t seen how dead he looked,’ I answered in his stead. ‘You’ve seen him while we’re gathering the search party, right?’
Marwin thought back for a moment, before he nodded. ‘And Sevrin? Just to confirm: when did you find those guns?’
‘After they died. We locked ourselves in before we searched for clues,’ said Sevrin. He fiddled with the pistol in his hand. ‘Fuckers stole their guns. Can’t have shit in Arkham.’
I was about to ask how they knew, but then I recalled that Marwin was with them beforehand. It was probably Marwin’s idea.
‘Wait,’ Patrizia interrupted. ‘When we left Sawney and Lucius…we left in pairs, right? Normand and Utterson, Sevrin and Neilan, Pierre and Silvia, Marwin and Penny…why did you separate with Penny?’
Marwin’s eyes narrowed. It should be clear that Marwin had left with Penny, as they were the last two who left. But even if Marwin answered the truth, no one could prove his words because Penny was dead. ‘And the Necronomicon…if you didn’t expect the murders, why did you bring it with you? Why on Earth did you come here, I wonder?’
‘You don’t go around and assume other people’s thoughts,’ said Marwin. ‘And it’s not my fault Pierre wanted me here so much.’
'And you accepted, even when you had a choice. There’s not even a reason you have to come. Chances are you and Pierre are keeping distance from each other, when in fact, you’re collaborating. Why would you kill us, I wonder? What did we do wrong?'
‘Exactly. What did you do wrong? I can’t find an answer to that. That’s why I said you don’t go around and assume people’s thoughts.’
Patrizia went silent. Yet, she tried to pierce Marwin’s cold grey eyes; like water eroding stone, raindrops on a statue. In the end she might win, but it would be far too late for her to witness her victory.
'But we’re not here to win or lose,’ Marwin continued. ‘We’re here to get to the bottom of this. To find the murderer and get out of here.'
'By “to get to the bottom of this,” you mean “defend yourself and get away”.'
'No one wants to admit to a crime. And don’t forget our objective.'
‘If the murder’s trying to get away, then it’s a game of winning or losing,’ said Patrizia. ‘Unlucky for you, you’re getting cornered when you won’t admit it.’
‘There is no corner in the first place. I haven’t built any.’
‘Then you’ve built walls to cage someone else.’
'Just because they can build corners doesn’t mean they built it. The culprit can lie all they want. They can bluff and say that someone can do it, but we don’t know whether they really can, let alone do it.’
Once again, Patrizia said nothing. Marwin spoke again.
‘If you can’t be valid, leave. I have a murder to solve.’
‘Who doesn’t have a valid point again?’ snarled Patrizia. ‘If I’m invalid, then so are you. We shouldn’t have debated in the first place!’
I sighed. 'Do I have to remind you again? You are the one starting this. You are the problem. I have no time for your pointless sympathy. We’ll go back to this as soon as we get out of here.’
His words seeped inside like a poisoned arrow in the heart. Her tongue had frozen, disabling her to speak. Instead, the words she wanted to throw formed into a single tear running down her right cheek.
Normand’s anger was in the verge of eruption. Marwin gave him a cold glance, warning him not to bother, and went back to Patrizia. She wanted to stride away as quickly as possible; but she was stuck in place, as if a shadow was forcing her to speak.
Nevertheless, she found the courage to win the ghost by taking a small step back, which was enough for the rest to happen. Marwin stalled her one last time.
'Just…don’t do anything rash. Do something useful, or stay out of this.'
'You stay away from me.'
As soon as she was out of our sight, he sighed ’Good Lord.’ He didn’t seem to notice our utter shock. Turning to us, he said, ‘Don’t worry about Penny. I’ll–’
A sharp impact hit his cheekbone before he could even finish. Normand’s fury was understandable, but a punch in a face was still uncalled for. That instant, Gabriel pulled Normand away from Marwin and locked his hands from behind. Yet, that didn’t stop Normand from spewing out curses.
‘Fucker will kill Patri—Just you’ll see—’
Gabriel lost patience and struck his neck. Without a word, she beckoned me to come help her drag Normand out. I glanced at Marwin one last time. Lightning shone through stained glass, casting a rainbow upon his grey figure. His hand slowly moved to trace the bruise on his cheek. His expression was blank.