After adjusting myself to take that horrible scene in, I knocked the door to what we’d chosen to be my room and came in. Normand didn’t get up. I sat down on the edge of the dusty bed. I couldn’t understand how these people didn’t mind getting their clothes filthy, even though it was expected of an abandoned place.
That was until I threw my back onto the bed without much thought. With that, I soon found flexibility an utter bliss.
Yet, the sight of Sawney and Lucius refused to leave me. Killing them in such a way was humiliating enough, but building an entire contraption to stir our heads?
Thunder crashed again. The sprinkling of rain washed over me, but it failed to extinguish my wish for vengeance. The witch Keziah Mason and the spirits of her followers…though any other thing we may offer, our lives are the borderline.
No, not even a witch would do this. Looking at the stories in stained glass again, it must be something worse. A human pretending to be a witch…that’s what the culprit is. The culprit doesn’t even know what a witch does, and assumes them to do only bad things. Plenty of legends portray her with saggy skin and a blood-drinking rat, spending nights killing infants and innocent animals. But that’s how witches are portrayed. I’m sure most of them are good. That’s why Keziah was condemned. We don’t even know if she’s evil–we just know she did something out of the norm. Yes, that’s right. That must be it. The witch isn’t evil–the pretender is.
And the pretender is one of us.
Face still muffling under the naked mattress, Normand asked me about the scream. ‘You heard it?’ I asked.
‘Duh.’ His voice was groggy but comprehensible. ‘What happened?’
‘Sawney and Lucius are dead. Someone murdered them.’
Normand’s fingers clawed on the bed sheet tighter than before. His lips pursed. ‘Is Patri okay?’
‘Of course. She’s the first to discover the corpses, but she’s recovered.’
Normand gave out a faint yet forced smile. ‘I’m grateful.’
We went silent. Our conversations had never been this short. On a normal day, there would always be something for us to pick up and discuss, even if they were completely unrelated to what we were talking about.
So this time made me question whether I had been wasting too much time on the same meaningless things. It wasn’t bad, of course, but it left me clueless on how to react to things like death.
After a while, Normand asked me again, ‘Do you think the killer’s gonna make it look like a curse?’
'Well, duh. Is it not obvious? This is nothing but a children’s play…'
But in truth, my heart did sway a little. That terrible scene was the furthest thing a human could have done. The emotional flame brightened again.
‘I dunno, man…I’m not even sure what the killer is after.’ Normand sat upright and scratched his head. ’But don’t you think it’s all too cheesy? Like, you see that symbol on the stained-glass window? You see something strange?’
I tilted my head. ‘That Necronomicon circle?’
‘Yeah, that thing or whatever. You think it had to do with Marf? Like, is the killer trying to kill him for that book? And then he failed, so they took Saw and Luce hostage?’
That made sense in a way; but on another thought, I found it peculiar. First, if the killer was trying to kill Marwin for the Necronomicon, then they should have taken it away as soon as he fell unconscious. Second, in order to attack Marwin, there must have been a thirteenth person hiding on this island.
From the latter, there were two possibilities. One was that the thirteenth person had done their job, left the island before the storm, and left the rest to another killer. The second was that the thirteenth person was one of us, separated while we were not looking, and rejoined the group as if nothing had happened.
But considering how inexplicible the storm was, I soon found my head running in circles. ‘You and Pierre were the first to find Marwin, correct?’
‘And you couldn’t open the door until Marwin had fallen unconscious. Isn’t it strange, how the killer could temporarily lock the doors without Marwin seeing him at all?’
'Hold up. Marwin didn’t see anyone?'
'He only saw an empty room. There were no gunshots, either. Otherwise he would’ve heard a sound. I believe you didn’t hear any of that?'
An eerie chill ran through Normand’s body. He sat still, entranced by his thoughts, before all of a sudden he shook his head. ‘Ugh, this is hurting my brain.’
‘Told you not to drink so much.’
‘And the thing with Saw and Luce,’ he said. ‘Who else didn’t see them?’
'As far as I know, you’re the only one absent.'
'Oh fuck me…They’re gonna accuse me, aren’t they?'
So far, no one has said anything about Normand, but it is only a matter of time. If Normand gets in trouble, I will too. Neither of us want that. So I placed a hand on Normand’s and said, 'Your problem is my problem. Surely, the killer must have left some evidence. Until the culprit is caught, we’ll keep defending each other. We’re friends, Normand.'
It was true. We had lived under the same house despite coming from different families. Normand’s family was in huge debt after a failed business, and we were kind enough to support them after they had sold their house. Soon after, they got out of debt and were able to move to a house on their own. Yet, we still kept in touch as if we were cousins. Surely, there is no bond stronger than a healthy family.
Normand’s green eyes glinted. He didn’t know what to say except,‘Thank you. I’m grateful.’
I ruffled his messy chestnut-brown hair. I could never get tired of it. In fact, I could do so forever, even in the direst situations.
‘Where are they now?’ asked Normand. ‘Saw’n Luce, I mean.’
‘We’re not sure what to do with them, so we left them there.’
‘Can I see them again? One last time?’
The last time he saw them, he was still having fun with their card games. His mournful voice swayed me once again; they were good friends as well. To have someone tell him he would never see them again must have been a shock in his head.
But until we reached there, we didn’t expect the corpses to be gone. Patrizia and Gabriel were there. It would have been a relief had they been forensic cleaners. The moment they saw us, Patrizia cried, ‘W-Wait, we just came here too! Don’t land on us yet!’
We believed her, as she was as shocked as we were. ‘Someone must’ve snuck in and carried them away,’ said Gabriel. ‘But I don’t think they’re doing this to destroy evidence.’
‘There must be traces where they were carried to, no?’
‘I’m not even sure if I’m stepping on their blood or not,’ she said as she rubbed her trainers on the floor.
Patrizia started speaking. ‘Maybe the victims aren’t actually dead. They pretended to be dead, and they hid themselves somewhere. It’s already suspicious since the first time they disappeared.’
‘We clearly saw the corpses up close, and they’re definitely dead,’ said Gabriel. ‘I poked some leftover brain, and it’s very, very real.’
‘What the fuck?! Nasty,’ exclaimed Normand. ‘Who’s the last person that left?’
‘Not sure. We’re the first who left–’
‘That would be Penny or Marwin,’ I said. ‘Though I can’t fully conclude, as they were together that time.’
‘No, Penny’s the one who told us not to touch the corpses, right?’ said Patrizia. ‘Then it’s…’
Marwin, she was trying to say. But she daren’t do so, as even she didn’t want to believe it. ‘Ugh, seriously. Gimme a break...’ said Normand.
‘Relax. Better than seeing the corpses up close, though.’ said Gabriel.
‘No, it’s not just that. We’re locked inside, there’s no phone, and no one bothered to check the signal light on the boat! We’re out of hope until this storm passes, right? And Marwin of all people?! As soon as I see his face, I’m gonna beat the crap out of him! Damn it, damn it, damn it!’
Normand then noticed Patrizia’s uneasiness and realised he was being too emotional. ‘Sorry...’ he said.
‘No, you’re right. None of this was supposed to happen. The signalling device was broken, and it’s our fault. And to think Marwin was the one who did this...’
‘That doesn’t mean he’s the culprit,’ Gabriel said.
‘What if he’s carrying them away to...’
I stopped. If there was one thing Marwin was known for, it was his stubbornness. He was the type of person who would bring himself to a disadvantage if it meant keeping the ten commandments in check. Back then, I found his absolute belief amusing, and made fun of it as a guilty pleasure. Denial swept me like dust. Marwin couldn’t have pulled a nasty trick against us, right?
Or was I wrong? Was I deceiving myself from that possibility? He might not be the culprit, but carrying the corpses away could mean only one other reason.
And when it showed who Marwin truly was, a sick feeling rose in my gut.