I woke up with the urge to cough. The whole place smelt like ashes and festering wood. With my face nuzzled on a dusty mattress, I had the biggest sneezing fit in my life.
My left shoulder hurt. I could still move it, but it hurt so much I’d rather not. Until I looked down, I didn’t notice my jumper was missing. Stains of red clung onto the white canvas. A faint trace remained on my left wrist, tainting my cross-shaped birthmark. I decided not to like the sight.
On a stool beside me, Pierre was striking a match and lighting a lantern. He was the only one in this mysterious room, so I asked him where my jumper was. ‘You almost died, and the first thing you ask for is your sweater,’ he said. ‘It’s still drying over there. You forgot all your stuff on the boat, and I carried them for you.’
I thanked Pierre. He explained that the others had gone to explore the place while I was out, and I was inside one of the many bedrooms they had found. Since that, the church seemed less like a church and more like a converted hotel. ‘Anyway, that was eight hours ago, so rise and shine, sleeping beauty,’ he said.
I was baffled at the thought of losing a third of a day to a simple injury. Worse, I asked him what day it was. He gave me a concerned expression before he said, ‘The thirty-first of July.’
‘Yeah, what happened to you?’ He placed the lantern on a table across me. ‘I didn’t think you’d lock the doors when you went, and all of a sudden there’s blood all over the place. I thought you’re dead.’
I tried to analyse what happened earlier, but I gave up and said it was hard to explain. He faltered. Soon the lantern light brightened the room golden, and a mild aroma of tea overtook the stuffy air. Pierre couldn’t risk going anywhere without a bag of tea in his pocket. He even told me he was glad he’d brought it with him. Under a chaotic storm, we could at least start a fire and boil some water to warm us up; which was what he’d done earlier.
A sound knock from the door made the lantern lights flicker. I was about to open it, but Pierre pressed a hand over my chest. In my stead, he stood up and welcomed the guest.
Penny was casual, but fashionably dressed in a pastel pink blouse and slightly torn jeans. She seemed relieved when she saw me. Yet, a certain aspect of her smile hid glints of suspicion behind her handheld fan. There was something in the way she held herself, as if unsure of where her limbs should be. So she spent most of her time twirling her jet-black hair.
‘Came to serve more tea?’ Pierre asked.
Penny started to fan herself. ‘For the last time, the tea’s not yours.’
She then turned to me and asked if I was okay. I said yes, but Penny interrupted and said, ‘Wrong answer.’ I would’ve been lying if I opposed her, though. Even after a good eight hours, a sick feeling still refused to leave my gut.
Sawney came by not long after. His brother Lucius was assisting him with the door, while Sawney himself was holding the teacups with his black hooded jacket as gloves. Penny was struck when she saw the teacups Sawney had brought in. ‘Wha–where’d you get that?!’
‘You left it, so it’s free property. And I know Pete’s gonna steal his share anyway.’ He gave Pierre a referring glance. Pierre ignored him.
Lucius looked away from his brother. ‘Told you she’s gonna get pissed. She forgot them, but it’s still her stuff, you know?’ He then gave Penny an awkward smile and said, ‘Penny, we’ll repay you later. Bear with us, okay?’
Penny huffed but complied. I was about to volunteer to do so in their stead, but then decided that this was a problem of their own.
Soon, Sawney dominated the situation. He started by asking me vague questions like how I was the first to get up there, what happened before I was out, and what I saw in the chapel. As I answered everything, he smiled and said, ‘If you’re lying, you’re really good at it.’ I stayed silent. He looked away for a second, said something else I couldn’t remember, and repeated the same line before letting the others take over.
Pierre brought back the subject of those chained front doors. As he said, he didn’t think I would lock the doors when I entered the church. I was confused, because I didn’t. ‘You sure you didn’t lock them?’ said Penny. So I asked her back, ‘Why would I lock from the inside?’
We kept our thoughts to ourselves, but then Penny started to freak out and presumed that a curse was looming over us. Lucius tried to convince her it wasn’t the case. ‘We’re on a god-damn haunted island! If whatever’s owning this island’s striking him first, we’re doomed! I already sense something here...and it’s way worse than what I thought. I hate sounding like a coward, but I think we should leave.’
‘Can’t,’ Pierre interrupted. ‘Remember we tried to go outside? Everything’s locked. And now there’s a huge storm outside. Even if we get out of here, we still won’t be able to leave the island. We’re trapped.’
We fell in silence. Sawney and Penny of disappointment, Lucius and Pierre of concern, and I out of bafflement. Frustrated, Penny said she had better things to take care of, and asked Pierre if he had some. Sawney and Lucius insisted on staying. Pierre gave them the responsibility of me and shut the door.
It was one thing every one of us knew in common. Though having a group of people leave me alone relieved me, a request for a private talk was never a good sign.
Sawney sat down on the bed and said he had something important to tell me. I’d received a message from Mama before we left the mainland. Papa was dead. ‘It’s hard to say it, but it’s really important for me to ask you this. It’s alright if you don’t wanna answer, though.’
He asked me if I had a good relationship with Papa. I was taken aback. If it were me, I’d also hesitate to ask a question like this. Nevertheless I said yes, just as a happy family would. But at some point we all expected their parents to die. From there, Sawney interrupted me. He seemed upset. When I asked him why, all he said was not to say it again.
He thought for a minute before he asked me if I was angry Papa had left me so suddenly. I explained that there was nothing to blame him for, and we never expected much from each other. This time, Sawney seemed frustrated. He asked me if I had any feelings for my family at all, and once again I was taken aback. Lucius stopped him and said there must be a misunderstanding. Sawney calmed down. He said his condolences and apologised. I brushed them off, as I’d be able to visit him anyway. Sawney flopped himself onto the bed.
A minute later, Sawney got up and left without a word. Lucius told me to excuse him, explaining that he had also lost his father a few years ago. He was expecting me to feel the same as him; but he should’ve known we’re not the same person.
I changed the subject and asked how Sawney knew about the text message. Lucius explained that Utterson was the first to know, but if he were the one telling me I’d think he was lying. I said that wouldn’t be the case. Utterson was unpredictable, yes, but I was more than capable of dealing with him. Lucius furrowed his eyebrows, before raising them, as if about to say ‘okay’ in a confused manner.
The blond paused from there. He smiled and said that was all, before handing me my phone. There were two unread messages; one from Mama, and one from an unknown number. Lucius asked what I should do with them. I said I would take a brief look with little thought, since I wouldn’t be able to reply at the moment.
Now that the worst scenarios had come and gone, I’m looking back to those messages and copying everything down. You may take note of them in case it becomes important.
The first message, from Mama, 31 July 2020, 10.32 (Translated from German):
Papa passed away. The funeral starts tomorrow. In these tough times I pray that God will bless us with strength and energy. I’m always with you. My deepest condolences.
The second message, from an unknown number, 3 March 2030, 10.45 (English):
Hide the Necronomicon. Keep it as close to you as possible. You might not know who I am, but I want you to believe me. Things will get complicated from here. Stay strong.
Lucius was gone. I typed what I needed and made a mental note to send it later. Shutting my phone, I arranged my bed, coughed a few times, and fell into a fitful sleep. The only thing I hoped was to have nothing out of place the next time I jerk myself awake.
You see, I can’t blame my family or anything except having the Necronomicon as an heirloom. It was unusual for a religious family; but someone had to keep it safe, or else history would repeat. Break-ins were more than common, too, so we couldn’t keep it in one place either. So it had become a tradition for a parent to choose someone to inherit it.
I should’ve seen it coming. Having me pursue my studies here didn’t stop Papa from choosing me. He told me to take great care of it and ‘tamper with it as little as you can.’ He could’ve said not to open it at all, but he’d probably made his mistakes. Other than that, he also said to live a good life and come back home as often as I can. By that, he meant ‘have children and pass the book over to the next generation.’
I’m not too sure about that, though. You might’ve heard me saying ‘This bloodline dies with me’ at least once, but now it might be the case. Mama said nothing about how Papa had died, but I could tell he didn’t die a happy death. He was still in his late forties the last time I checked. And as I said, he’d probably made his mistakes.
Hours went by without anyone interrupting. It was good. This room was my only sanctuary when my headache wouldn’t get any better. After what felt like minutes, I got up again, rubbing my eyes, only to wince again at the pain in my head. I didn’t need to look in the mirror to know I looked horrible. Not like this room had one in the first place.
Finally, I got out of bed and opened my luggage. Inside a smaller section were things I’d forgotten to take out: the Holy Bible, a book of prayer, and note scraps I had memorised a long time ago.
There, I brought out an even smaller pouch. It contained a small, gold rosary. I couldn’t remember exactly when or why I’d stopped wearing it. It was around two years ago and had something to do with Utterson. I doubt he’d say anything about it anymore, though, so I decided to wear it once again.
While I was adjusting the rosary on my neck, my mind wandered back to Sawney. I wonder what I had done to get him upset. I could’ve concluded that it’s a defense mechanism, but it wouldn’t solve anything. Maybe he wanted his father back. Maybe he was trying to kill me.
But for what? I wasn’t the friendliest of peers, but I hadn’t wronged anyone. The only thing I’d done so far was mind my own business. It couldn’t be for the Necronomicon, either; the book was still attached onto my belt, and if wanted it he would’ve stolen it while I was out.
Or maybe it wasn’t Sawney at all. Possibilities came to mind, and they were that: possibilities. I knew I shouldn’t question him too much, but it was good to have someone under suspicion. Holding the rosary tight, I prayed for God, hoping that He’d give me a hint on what was going on.
But the only thing He gave me was Utterson.