Who was the Marwin Preis who expected me to pull off a daily playful prank? Who was the Marwin Preis who kept himself distant yet elegant? Who was the Marwin Preis who, when he sins, doesn’t lose his confidence in God, and continues the fight with grace?
After another phone call from the outside world, I’ve acknowledged two long hours before everything ends. I can sleep soundly without minding the dust on each mattress, even though I won’t. I intend to save it when we leave this island once and for all. Then I will revisit Marwin, and this will be the last time we’ll meet.
The tension settled. Pursing my lips, I looked at the item in my hand: Marwin’s Necronomicon. This is the book that caused it all; why the culprit became the witch, why innocent lives perished, and why Marwin had gone mad. Now that I have the book with me, he won’t be able to create another ruckus and bring us doom.
After I kept the Necronomicon into my parka, Sevrin blat, ‘That’s incredible!’ before turning to Silvia and adding, ‘Innit?’
‘Yeah…’ Silvia trailed off. She looked too dazed to give him a proper answer, like how Lucius stayed silent even till now. Despite siding with Marwin, he had nothing worthy to say, and he had learnt to keep his thoughts with himself.
Despite his absurdity, Marwin was right about one thing. We have wasted too much time. Right as we condemned him, to our shock, he snapped, grabbing me in the collar and shouting, 'Do you have ANY proof of this?! No? Then what are you trying to imply? I’m the one who wants them back the most! I’m the one who brought them back! Go find some evidence, or shut up!'
So I will find some evidence and prove him wrong.
We made our way to the cellar, where Silvia located Gabriel’s death. Before that, we debated whether we should get the revived victims out of their rooms first. ‘Not the best idea,’ said Silvia. ‘Who knows what the hell they’ll do to us. So once we get whodunit?’
Indecisive, I didn’t answer. Instead, I headed to Sevrin and asked, ‘Sevrin? The notepad?’
He brought it—the one with both Marwin and Gabriel’s handwriting. As we gave it a thorough look, Sevrin and Neilan’s eyes widened a little before returning to normal. I asked them what happened. ‘Nothing,’ they said. ‘We’re a little confused, but nothing to worry about.’
Beforehand, we had rummaged through whatever hiding places he might’ve kept with himself. Nothing was present other than the notepad, his mobile, and a broken rosary. Regarding the lattermost, it was my fault. I had yanked his rosary during his meltdown.
Now, my parka is full of golden beads and links. It’s okay, I told myself. Things break. I didn’t know what to do. Yet, a certain fear lingered, as someone’s gift which prompted him to hope for a miracle was in pieces.
Away with it! I mustn’t think of it now, or it’ll only make me insecure. I doubt everything, and then demand others for new, more convincing approval. That wouldn’t be wise, would it? Now that I’m investigating, I mustn’t appear strained. I must appear calm with a touch of humour. I want to be a superb leader and listener while withstanding my own insecurities. Because arse-kissing is never admiring. Or memorable. Or good for the gut.
As Pierre had said, Gabriel was facing toward the cellar’s sole window when the culprit stabbed her in the back. Her last expression before death seemed to be utter betrayal. That intrigued me; Gabriel wasn’t close to anyone, but the revelation must’ve shocked her an impressive deal. In fact, she wouldn’t have shown her back had she not trusted them. And who was the last person she trusted?
‘Lucius,’ I said. ‘Did you see the culprit? Did they shock you?’
Even now, Lucius hadn’t uttered a word. The only thing he gave me was a light shake with his head. Meanwhile, Silvia’s mental transcendence refused to leave her, as Sevrin tried to reassure her. ‘No more overthinking, Silv. Let’s do this, and we’ll get outta here.’
‘Don't worry about me,’ replied Silvia. ‘It’s just that… maybe there’s something more to it. But you’re right. I’m thinking too much.’
No, I imagined myself saying. This is the perfect time to overthink. Leaving the scene without a ceremony, our next destination turned to Patrizia Richter.
The past and the present are merging. A numb wave touched my ankles.
On our way, I asked Silvia, 'Where on planet Earth you have been?'
‘Does that matter right now?’
‘No, it doesn’t,’ Neilan interrupted. ‘But I confirm it has less to do with the murders and more about Pierre. I’ll tell you as soon as we get out of here. Unless you’re the culprit, that is…’
I tried to ignore the shotgun.
I’ve heard more than enough screams to know that Patrizia wasn’t in her best self, so it relieved us that the room—and not the girl—became dead. Silvia gave two soft knocks and came in. The young woman with long, black hair sat there, cowering her knees to her body with scant breaths. Poor her; she was already thin and pale, but her palazzo pants and oversized t-shirt had made her look even more so.
Blood-soaked sheets surrounded her. The only lamp was on the floor, so it was a miracle it didn’t set the floor on fire. In front of her were pieces of paper written, ‘Die’, ‘I’ll kill you,’ and other hateful messages not for herself.
‘Her head was cut off,’ said Sevrin. We grimaced.
‘What the fuck? Marwin… how could he?’ said Silvia.
‘She didn’t suspect Marwin, though.’
Sickened, I bit my lip and gathered my thoughts. ‘So the killer has an axe, too?’
‘Seems like it. Can’t find the weapon. The culprit must’ve disposed of it.’
Silvia took the notepad from Sevrin before going to Patrizia. She bent down and spoke to her. ‘Hey. It’s Silvia. I’m here.’
Patrizia didn’t answer. She might’ve not heard her as her cries grew louder. Silvia shook her head. ‘She’s in a shock. They must’ve hurt her that bad.’
‘Decapitated and then revived. What d’ya think?’ said Sevrin.
‘Sorry for being dumb, I guess.’
‘Sevrin, that’s uncalled for,’ said Lucius for the first time. I joined.
‘Quit it. We have to interrogate her. Now. Patrizia—’
‘What did Normand do to you?’ Sevrin interrupted.
Patrizia didn’t answer. I, too, was in blank shock. But before I could ask Sevrin why he had chosen Normand, he asked her again.
‘That time when Marwin revived you, you wanted Normand’s head, yeah? Why?’
Still, Patrizia didn’t answer.
‘Did you see the culprit?’ I asked.
This time Patrizia nodded. From there, Silvia continued speaking with a quiet yet persistent voice. Neilan held his shotgun closer while watching them with a worried look. Patrizia seemed to have calmed down, somewhat at another woman to her aid. It was then she started explaining her testimony, in a voice so faint that Silvia had to lend an ear to her.
Meanwhile, the rest of us kept our distance. Why on Earth did Sevrin ask about Normand? Normand had suffered more than enough already—he didn’t deserve to be accused, did he? It was Marwin’s fault for complicating everything.
No, that’s wrong. Marwin did nothing, but his emptiness was threatening us all. Had I let him stay, would he care about our deaths? Would he see us as but another chain tying him down?
Why did I let his words sway me?
Attempting to forget about Marwin, I whispered to Sevrin why he asked Patrizia about Normand. ‘Shit, I didn’t tell you. So Marf revived her, and she screamed to kill Normand. She threatened to cut his hands off or something… It’s awful, my head’s fucking mince.’
‘But when we got to her room, he’s in front of it, right? He acted like he couldn’t get in. Isn’t it strange?’ said Neilan.
I pondered for a moment. ‘Perhaps another person is pretending to be Normand? I can’t imagine him killing her.’
‘Yeah, I agree.’ Sevrin nodded. ‘And how the hell did the killer get away—’
‘Can you please shut the fuck up?’ Silvia spoke up. We all went silent, though after some time Sevrin mustered up the courage to whisper ‘shag my fucking arse.’
After a while, the interrogator gulped and nodded. Her face had lost her signature confidence as she walked up to us. ‘So she… she’s sure Normand killed her. You’re right on the axe thing, but he came in empty-handed.’
Neilan questioned, ‘So the axe was already in Patri’s room? Doesn’t that sound out of place?’
How peculiar. Recounting again, Normand was with Gabriel until he ran away. And considering she took Normand down with fair ease, the time also didn’t add up. So what happened? Did this have something to do with Gabriel?
‘Take responsibility for your dear friend, Utterson,’ Patrizia spoke to me. The way she did so gripped me in the neck. ‘Your Normand came in, and he strangled me! And as I thought he’s going to spare me, he… An axe was in his hand, and I was on the ground, and I couldn’t breathe, and…’
‘Patri… deep breaths, okay?’ Silvia said.
‘No, he didn’t even try to ask Normand why he wanted to kill me!’
‘Why would he kill someone he loves?!’ I broke out. ‘It makes no sense! Someone’s pretending to be him! It’s not Normand!’
‘Are you going to take responsibility?!’
‘No. It’s not him. He’s with me!’
‘I SAW HIM UP CLOSE!’
‘IT CAN’T BE HIM! IT CAN’T BE!’
‘I SAID BE QUIET! YOU ALL!’
Neilan was about to shoot me. Patrizia continued screaming. Silvia and Sevrin stood there. My heart took on its own momentum, beating faster, and every colour became over-saturated and slapped me in the face. I struggled to follow what Patrizia was speaking. I was still there, and I could hear her voice, but everything transported itself into another reality. I became trapped in a glass dome inside an aquarium, watching a world that seemed alien.
‘Shit, your face is pale…’ I heard Silvia. ‘I’ll get the first aid kit. Hold on!’
Despair seized me by the throat. Even Silvia’s voice sounded threatening. Everything was real to where my acute senses overwhelmed me and I begged for it to stop. I was sure I was alive, yet all the same I was about to die.
I tried to stop thinking, praying for it to subside. It worked. The fear earlier had diminished like the bottom of a cigarette. The smoke was still there, but how lucky a fire never sparked.
Silvia rushed back with the promised first aid kit. For a while I couldn’t distinguish her face from the stars, but once again the colours faded into black and white, and everything reintegrated. I tried recounting Silvia’s features: long wavy hair with purple dyed on the tips, almond-shaped eyes, glossy lipstick, round face, and a star-shaped earring. Focusing on her alone, everything returned into its calm, and my unknown fear vanished for the meantime. The smell of ammonia entered my receptors.
‘You gotta stop and rest,’ said Silvia. ‘Else you’ll end up like Pete.’
The thought of retiring froze me on the spot. How am I supposed to be helpful? How am I supposed to be loved without a full-fledged contribution? Just as I thought the fear from earlier had dispersed, it rose again. But by then I had become too exhausted to receive it.
Retiring now would mean I wouldn’t be able to see Normand. Deep irritation consumed me, and even the slightest thing made me want to lose my temper and start screaming and sobbing hysterically. Once again the shadow of death strangled me, leaving me helpless in my own thoughts.
God, I don’t believe in you—but please, help me.