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  • Sienna Kim

Not As It Seems

Updated: Apr 17

CHAPTER 1

The Office, the String, and the Question


“Truth or Dare,” Philip said. 


It was night in Chester Brook, the lines of suburban homes dotted in the hazy rain. Ink was blotched heavily in the sprawling sky. The scattered stars hidden by the urban smog from the city. I sat cross-legged on the floor, carpet fur nipping my ankles. The roar of rain surrounded me, a symphony of thunder and water. “Dare,” I said, nonchalantly. Philip drummed his fingers in thought. “You’re not gonna do it” he replied, falling back into the cushions. Boredom hung heavily in the air like a plague. I peered out the window, the glass sheen. The generic white picket fence sat deep in the ground surrounding the oak wood home. 


“How do you know until you ask me?” I said, rolling my eyes, exasperated.  Philip shook his head, a blond lox falling into his lashes. I sighed. I sunk into the deep gray carpet, its fuzz chewing on my face. The yellow light above me seared my eyes, though I didn't mind, it was far better than the dark. The daisies painted hastily on the wall smiled at me so starkly contrasted to the storm outside. 

“Dare, right? You’ll be a loser if you back out” he called, hesitantly. I peered over at the antique clock, its shorthand nestled comfortably between numbers ten and eleven. ‘Only thirty minutes until Mom and Dad are home,’ I thought. After a moment I stuck my pinkie finger into the air giving it a mocking twirl. “Pinkie promise,” I said jokingly. 

“Even if it was something absurd it would still relieve the unbearable dullness” I decided. Philip nodded. He knew pinkie promises were unbreakable agreements. He wrapped his chubby finger around mine. 

“I dare you to go into Dad's study” he whispered, almost as if it were a cursed phrase. I blinked. I honestly hadn't expected it. I rubbed my temples pondering ways to reject his dare. I opened my mouth, then closed it promptly. 

“You promised,” he cried. The useless excuse died in my throat. “I want to know why we’re not allowed there, please,” he begged, I stared off into the narrow dim staircase. 

“Your curiosity will be the death of me,” I mumbled, getting to my feet. His face lit up. He beamed scrambling upright. Philip clutched my hand as I made my way up the stairs, the wood groaned under our weight as we trudged up to the second floor. I pushed the switch at the top of the stairs. Light washed the hallway in yellow, sending shadows contorting on the floors. 

“If we get caught, I'm leaving it to you,” I said, my hands slightly clammy. I never enjoyed breaking rules. He gave me a nervous thumbs-up of approval. I took five paces coming up to the door. It was tall, double my height, with a wide maroon frame. I reached forward, taking the cold door knob in my itching fingers. I held my breath turning my wrist. Click. The door swung on its hinge. A lick of cold travelled down my spine as untouched air seeped from the open crack. Philip's hands twitched. I took a step forward, tension gripping my lungs. I carefully made my way further into the darkness, Philip trailing behind me. I gagged as the musky scents of rotting food and sour milk attacked my nose. The light from the hallway flooded the teal walls, a beam of color saturating the room. I squinted my eyes making out a short squat desk and a dusty bookshelf. ‘Why are we not allowed to be in here? There's nothing in this room,’ I wondered as the hairs on my arm stood. Though I saw nothing in the small room there was an uneasy feeling that hugged my bones. It was as if my whole body was screaming for me to leave for no apparent reason. 


“There isn't anything in here Philip let's get out,” I whispered, muscles tense. He stopped dead in his tracks. “What is it?” I asked, glancing back at him with wide eyes. 

“There's a string,” he replied, grasping at a thin thread strung from the ceiling. He pulled it down gently. 

A loud creak caused me to jump in my skin. Philip leaped backward as the ceiling above him slowly descended. 

A staircase. It looked hastily put together, wooden slabs stapled crooked on an inclined board. Trailing upwards from the ground to the black above were smudges of scarlet, bright compared to the dark surroundings. 

“We should go back,” I said still shocked. Philip seemed to ignore me as he clenched his jaw in thought. “Come with me, please,” he muttered and gave me a pleading look. I shook my head.  ‘Don’t do it.’ Philip sighed and suddenly shot forward his feet climbing the tall steps. I stared at his small form disappearing into shadow guilt gnawing at my insides. I groaned and followed after him. Philip smiled at me when I grasped his hand, a thank you shining in his eyes. As I made my way to the top step I was bombarded by the smell of rotting meat and immediately started heaving buckets in the corner of the completely dark attic. I could vaguely feel Philips's small chubby hands on my back. I looked up queasily. 

‘Since when did we have an attic,’ I thought as I slowly got back to my senses. Philip gasped beside me. “What?” I slurred out, still slightly blurry-eyed. He couldn't seem to make words with his mouth as he stammered. He lifted a single trembling finger and pointed at the small corner of the room. I made my way slowly to the dark area reaching my hands out unable to see through the thick shadows. Philip remained behind me breathing heavily trying to make out a sentence. As I got closer I noticed two humanoid-shaped bodies were lying on the ground. They reeked of mold and dirt. I gently grazed my finger on one of the bodies, it was cold and fleshy to the touch. I jumped back. I patted around and found the other one's head. I got closer trying to make out the two blurry faces in front of me. I choked. My parent's faces stared back at me, marred and beaten. Dried blood stuck to their scalps, a hollow expression imprinted on their features. It was obvious they had been dead for a while. I climbed backwards shaking my head, Philip crying loudly. My mind brimmed with questions, “If my parents' bodies are here, and they are dead. Who were the people who kissed me goodbye tonight? Who are the parents I have been living with for the past few months? Who are they?” 

At that moment I heard the front door opening, a singsong voice echoing to both Philips and my ears,

“Hey kids, we’re home!”


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CHAPTER 2

Home Sweet Home?


I stared at Philip and we simultaneously understood what we needed to do. I sprinted down the stairs pushing the board upwards as Philip ran out the door. The sound of soft chatter met my ears, they were taking their shoes off. Adrenaline pumped through my veins as I rushed through the hallway and into my room getting a short glance of the stairway. 

“Kiddos, you there?” a gruff male voice asked from downstairs. I quietly closed the door, sliding down the floor to my bed. Philip was already on his mattress, small tremors making their way down his small form. I felt my heart in my throat as I quickly turned off the lights, he whimpered. I hastily gave him a reassuring peck on the cheek as I heard the sound of creaking floorboards. The pounding of feet getting closer and closer. I dived into bed throwing my sheets messily over my back. The door opened with a soft whine. I shut my eyes tightly. The warm light that flooded into the large room was comforting, the shadow cast by the tall man in the doorway was not. “They’re asleep, Pactrica,” he called leaning forward. There was a hum in reply. I felt a person lean over me slowly, and I tensed. 

“Though maybe not…” breath brushed my cheeks. I evened my breathing. ‘Relax, relax’ I repeated.“What is it Jacob?” a skeptical voice spoke beside him. Every muscle in my body constricted.  “Oh no it's nothing, I'm just being paranoid that's all darling” a smooth reply. I could almost feel eyes burning into me. Then just as the suffocating watching began it was gone, the pressure of skeptical glances disappearing. And with a light click of the door, we were alone again. 


The only light in the room was little butterflies of moonlight flying in from the half-open blinds. I let out a sigh of relief peeling my eyes open and plunging into thought. The actual severity of the situation hit me like a dump truck. ‘They were dead. My parents were dead. They had been murdered in cold blood and have been lying in the attic of our house for god knows how long. It was murder… ‘The word sounded strange in my mind, I sounded it out quickly. It tasted strange in my mouth. The word seemed to repeat in my mind like a broken clock ticking constantly. I felt a sudden urge, a clawing want to scream, shrilly until my throat was raw and my eyes were red. It felt irrational but I wanted to crawl into a ball and hide. I was broken out of my stupor by a quiet whimper from the bed a few feet away. A strange sisterly urge began to fill me, overshadowing my urge to cry and scream. Over anything I wanted to protect Philip, I needed to. It didn’t matter that he was an aggravating little boy sometimes, in that moment I wanted to shield him from everything I knew was to come. 

“Philip? Are you alright?” I whispered through the darkness. I could barely make out his small trembling form in the barely lit room. I slowly crept over to his side squatting at the foot of his bed. From so close I could make out his features, his large brown eyes fearfully bored into mine. He quickly furrowed his brows, a look of realization dawning upon his face like a morning sun. I raised a questioning eyebrow. Philip leaned close to me and surprisingly pulled me into a tight embrace. I was initially shocked, frozen in movement, but then I softened and eased into his arms wrapping my hands around his small body. I could feel his pounding heart against my arms and tepid breath along my cheek but I didn’t mind. Then out of the blue came the torrent of tears. Gushing waterfalls of choked sobs filled the silence, they stained my shirt darker than blood. I wrapped my hands gently around his head tapping his back. I wanted to cry too.


Philip jerked his chin upwards letting out a rattled breath. He muttered something, his voice thick with hiccups. “What is it?” I questioned leaning down to hold my ear near his lips battered into a thin frown.  “Am I dreaming?” he murmured, so hushed that a pin drop would cover his trembling words. I felt so helpless. I wanted to say yes, to agree with a grin, and have us both wake up simultaneously running and hugging Mom and Dad. But I knew that would be a lie. I couldn't bring myself to lie so I shook my head, his eyes welled up with fresh tears. “What are we gonna do Ophelia, what are we gonna do?” he slurred a dejected faraway look gracing his young features. I set my gaze on him, steadily, I took a deep breath. I needed to be the strong one, I couldn’t break while he was falling. 


“Listen carefully to me Philip, okay? We’re going to wait a few hours, until around three to four. By that time our pare-,” I pursed my lips, “the other people will be asleep. We can both pack a bag while we wait, put some granola bars, our walkie-talkies, and a change of clothes in there. Following me so far?” I ask. He gives me an attentive bob.  “Then we’ll make a run for it, yeah? Lik-like we’re playing Cops and Robbers, we’re the robbers and we just stole something so we have to run fast. Once we are out of the house follow me and we’ll go to the police station. They’ll know what to do after that,” I finished. Philip had a sour look on his face. “What’s wrong?” I questioned, “Don’t say nothing, I know when something is up”.He stared at me with uncertainty and then gave into my steadfast stare, “M-my watch, the one mama and d-d-dad gave me for my b-birthday. It's probably one of the last things they ever gave me before, before-” his voice trailed off, his eyes smeared with a faraway gaze. I glanced at his arm barely suppressing a groan at the sight of his bare wrist. I knew how much the watch meant to him. But I recalled the watch sitting around his wrist while we were in the living room. I was no Sherlock Holmes but I didn't have to be to come to the conclusion I did…

Philip had lost his watch in the room where two bodies decayed,  the last place I wanted to see again. “I guess we're making a pit stop to the attic then” I declared.

 

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CHAPTER 3

Run.


It was silent. Philip crept beside me, his eyes squinting, and on his cheeks were blooming tulips. My muscles were taut, pulled with tension. It seemed that in the darkness my every movement was a daring exploit, my every floorboard traveled was a sigh tightly knitted through quiet lips. Perhaps it was the knowledge that resting a few doors down from my position was something other than my parents, or perhaps it was simply the utter stillness of the vacant hall. In either instance, the result was a hallway appearing as an ugly mess of danger. The hollow moonlight thrown from the half-closed shutters made the shadows cast, alive. They seemed to dance with glee around me, frolicking across the pasty daisy-painted walls. They all stared at me.  I checked my watch, 3:12 am, it read. I sighed assuring myself that by this hour both my “parents” would be asleep. Philip tapped my shoulder, cocking his head towards the maroon door. We had arrived. The cursed crimson frame glowered at me. My nerves masticated my stomach, as I stared at the reflective door handle. Trepidation slammed itself into the pit of my stomach. Philip drew a breath urging me with frantic hands to hurry and open the door. I felt the building crescendo of anxiousness grow in my fingertips as I turned the knob. We both slipped into the room quickly not wishing to abide in the hallway any longer. The door closed behind me with a click. My body was encased in a numb embrace as I tugged the string, and I walked up the narrow stairs. We made it to the top of the attic. I couldn’t bear to look up.

“Philip, find your watch,” I commanded, turning to observe the doorway for movement. He scrambled quickly to his knees, eyes darting the musky floors. It felt like hours before he finally seized the silver banded watch in his nubby fingers. Philip’s lashes glistened as he stared at the object, his lower lip trembling. It was a simple watch, a navy rimming with silver hands, a face of black and white. I motioned for him to hand the watch to me. Though hesitant he did as I asked.‘I’ll keep it safe,’ I worded in silence. 

Suddenly there was a groan from the door. My breath hitched. A tall brooding figure stood in the entrance, he had yet to spot us and I would assure you he didn’t later. I swiftly brought my arm to sweep Philip from the floor, backing away into the corner of the attic. I settled beside him as the figure moved forward. His head seemed to linger on the open attic hatch for a moment. And then he began to laugh. It was an earthy sound, rough and deep. It echoed through the space leaving unease in its wake for why would he laugh? “The littles have found out, darling! “ he shouted in a singsongy voice.  I held Philip’s shaking hands in mine and as I looked over him I saw it. The lingering feeling gnawing at his stomach, at his entire being. “And what naughty children they are to hide” the man continued.

It was fear. Philip was afraid. God knows I was too.Perspiration pooled at my chest, everything was red, bright, and flashing. I couldn't think. I couldn't breathe. “Come out now, little ones.” a keen whisper sounded near me. My heart was a heavy weight in my throat climbing up to my trembling lips threatening to spill. Then in an instant, I saw it, an opening. A sliver of light to the door unblocked by the man. It was my escape. I gripped the watch in my hands, letting the cool metal backing sink into my palm. 

I grasped Philips's hand quickly. Instinctively my mind shifted gears, I was on my feet, I was going to get out, I needed to get out. I felt the ticking of Philip’s watch in my palm. Tik, tok, ‘now or never,’ tik, tok,  ‘I can’t,’ tick tok, ‘you have to.’ Sweat crawled on my lashes. I readied myself planting my hands and positioning myself towards the door. The world around me seemed to slow. Everything depended on a deafening almost feral instinct. Over and over in my mind, the instinct repeated itself… A pulsing animalistic urge, a thirst shrieking one word. 


Run.

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CHAPTER 4

The Clawed Hands Will Reap


The floor was falling under my feet. Nothing could overcome the sound of my heart as I ran. I moved as fast as my legs could take me, pushing through my suffocating breath. Anything that would get me further away from the bodies, from the terrible killers. I could barely feel the ticking in my palm. Stairs. They spiraled ahead of me but I couldn’t slow, ‘Oh god.’ My heel slipped sending me tumbling down the wood. It would have been painful if I could feel anything.  I got to my feet. I could see the door in front of me. I stumbled onto the frame grasping the handle. The cold metal sent a spike of excitement down my spine. I was going to escape, freedom was just a step away. 


‘Wait, I?’


“Where’s Philip?” I uttered, my view narrowing. I scanned my surroundings for my brother. My only company was the utter realization that I had left him. Philip was gone. 


I felt the numbing urge to deflate. I slowly squatted thrusting my knuckles into my cheeks. Heat began to rise into my eye sockets filling my head with an undeniable pounding. ‘Don’t cry.’ I said to myself firmly, though I knew it was a fruitless cause. An overwhelming urge to lie down rested on my shoulders, it came with the realization that I wanted everything back. My parents, a home, Philip. But it was impossible, every second I wallowed in self-pity I was taking a step closer to murderers not a brighter past. Yet I seemingly didn't care. I refused to accept the small voice telling me to get to my feet and do something. Not while a phantom of Philips's innocent frowning face bored into me through closed eyelids. It was almost funny, how mere hours ago I was on the not-so-far carpet, blissfully unaware, playing an endearing game of truth or dare with Philip. Almost. Because nothing was ironic when your parents were a few stairs above with ashen skin and hollow eyes. Nothing was funny when your brother was gone, his innocence clasped suspended in the clawed hands that reap life. Tears began to pool, I never even noticed when they started to fall. A little pond of briny misery. “I'm sorry, Philip” I uttered, a gnawing ball of exhaustion nibbled away at my voice. 

 A sudden flood of hysteria washed over my mind. “Why haven’t they come for me yet? You murderers! Just come get me too, you’ve already taken everything,” I screamed. The words left a bitter distaste on my teeth. Suddenly a revelation dawned on me, the murderers knew I wanted my brother! They were lazy, they didn’t want to come get me so they were waiting for me to come to them. Keeping Philip hostage. It made sense. I got to my feet vigorously rubbing my face of any dejection, my entire being filled with a need to achieve the goal that was likely a suicide mission. I was walking straight into their trap and they wanted my blood. Yet I giddily smiled because I knew there was a chance that Philip was alive.


~~~ 


He was inches away from me. The giant figure resting on a large armchair, the one I used to call father. His legs sprawled lazily across the soft cushioned fabric. His fluttering half-conscious eyes averted to the floor. A single beam of light rested on his shoulder from the living room lamp. I studied the man's complexion. The man who wore the face of my father almost as a flaunt. He was identical and it was unnerving, from the number of hairs on his head to the shade of his nails. Yet there was something entirely skewed about him, so starkly different from my own father. The man permeated a presence of chaos and calamity, exuberating a completely consuming yet still devoid feeling. It was so contradicting to the warmth and bust from the man who raised me. I cursed myself for not noticing it earlier. Other than the forbidding he released the entire scene looked fairly normal. However, the fact that he had a crusty brown rope laced with poison scarlet in his palm dampened the normality. I couldn’t stop my gag. I tore my eyes away from the man's figure redirecting them to my target. A glint of gold was barely visible sitting on the table beside him. It was a key, a cursed token leading to Philip. 


‘C’mon Ophelia you can do this! Just go grab it and run up to the room,’ a little voice in my head encouraged me. ‘The last time I “just did it” I left Philip behind,’ I reminded myself. I discreetly snorted at the fact that I was arguing with myself but I quickly sobered as the man started lightly snoring from his chair. That was my cue. Sweat trickled down to my palms making my fingers clammy. I scurried to the table, my feet moving swiftly. I grasped the key not daring to look back as I flew across the wooden boards below. I grinned widely though the delusion of joy was short-lived. Diminished by a loud groan from the ground, I froze, every hair on my swerving to the ceiling. The man's breath hitched. ‘No no no no no.’ I chanted clenching my hands into fists. I could hear shuffling. I closed my eyes waiting for a coarse rope to pull my throat. It never arrived. I let an unfiltered sigh as snoring returned. The key was rusted under my fingertips, grating at my nails.  I opened my palm, the lackluster object watching me with a twinkle in its eye. I pursed my lips. ‘I’m coming for you, Philip.’


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CHAPTER 5

Of Closets and Skin


I inserted the key into the wooden frame, coaxing myself into even breathing. A beam of hope danced in my eyes, I was going to escape with Philip. I crouched low to the ground, resting one knee on the wooden floor. I twisted. A soft click sounded. The door stepped slowly away. I gripped the wood willing it to only open slightly, peering inside. That’s when I saw him. His mouth was gagged in a brown washcloth, his lashes thick with grime. He was perched against the closet leaning on one of its sides. A small gash burrowed itself on his forehead still crimson implying its recent infliction. It drooled down his cheek and through his trembling lips. His small bruised hands lay limply by his feet tied messily with rope. I bit my cheek swallowing the impulse to barge into the room and hold him to my chest.  


Suddenly a figure waltzed by. I got a short glimpse of her familiar golden lox and her iris frantic with an insatiable hunger. It was my “mother.” She stretched onto the linen sheets, the small of her back the only thing I could make out. My heart began to hammer its way through my lungs. “My, my you look afraid,” her voice sickly sweet, so soft and assuring. Philip huffed out his chest, his eyes flitted away. I sneered at her snide comment. “Don’t try to hide it, boy. I can taste it in the air, smell it in the very pores of your skin” she said in a sing-songy voice. Philip cowered. 


“Look at your mother while she speaks, you brat,” she shrieked traces of a low growl tangled under her words. Something about it didn’t sound human. Her manicured nails bent to Philips's face, digging into his flushed cheeks. Philips's frame shook his stare falling on the woman. Her demeanor immediately shifted, her bleached smile spreading twisted and unnatural on her cheeks. She laughed, a lofty sound, it was filling the very roots of my hair with poisonous deception. She pulled her hand away, stroking Philips's hair, lightly. He sat, rigid. I steeled my nerves. I had to help. “That’s a good boy. Now stay put while I go and get-” She suddenly stopped in her tracks, a feral fire lit through the pools of her ebony stare. 

“Oh wait, How exciting…” the woman said, though now she was out of view. Philip's eyes met mine. Hundreds of emotions passed through his blown-out features starting with surprise then relief followed closely by worry. I raised an eyebrow. My confusion only lasted a moment, interrupted by a face appearing in front of me, a large blue iris rimmed with insanity. I gasped stumbling back. 

“Hello, my dear. How good of you to join us!” she cried with overwrought delight. From my position on the floor, I could barely make out her features only the starved glint in her iris. 

I tried to get to my feet but she grabbed my ankle. Her touch was cold against my heated skin, her fingernails carving into my leg. “No! Don’t leave the family gathering is just getting started” she said with glee pulling me into the room. I resisted against her grip my nails scraping on the floor and creating loud agonizing shrieks. But all struggle was a fruitless attempt. She soon hauled me onto the wall, with her thin but surprisingly strong arm pinned at my throat. She licked her lips, mere inches away from my face. In that moment she strangely resembled a predator looking at its prey like a starved lion looking straight at its meal. I felt a lump grow in my throat at the clear resemblance. She wrapped a washcloth around my wrists as I continued to attempt an escape. I yelped as she tightened the fabric. My “mother” flung me onto the floor, my head kissing the hardwood with a loud crack. I could barely make out his eyes following me with concern as my vision spat into a frenzy of black dots. My “mother’s” thin cruel lips formed into a wild grin. My head pounded with a symphony of agony, a metal pick slamming into my pupils every time a peek of light met them. 

“Darling! Family meeting, our children are here,” she cried in joy. She flew out of the room, her heels punching the ground. I released a breath I was never aware I was holding as her figure retreated into the darkness. I immediately reached out for Philip, I wanted to know he was real, I needed to feel his breath and his hammering heart in my hands. As soon as his feverish skin met mine I heaved in relief cracking my eyes open slightly to meet his gaze. He watched me, his brow heavy with perspiration and worry. “I thought I had lost you,” I whispered, tackling him in a hug. I eased into his warm embrace as he crawled onto my lap. Tears cascaded down my cheeks, whether it was because of the reunion or the likely concussion I had, I didn’t know but at that moment neither did I care. A sudden crash broke me out of the moment as two large frames entered the room. I held my tongue in my teeth. 


“Look at us! All together again…” the man said flashing unnatural pearly whites. We needed to get unbounded, and fast. My eyes drifted to a glint of gold a few inches away from my position. The key. I nudged Philip, he spotted it too. Bingo. Its ridges appeared just sharp enough to cut through the cloths binding my wrist. But we needed a distraction. “Why would you murder our parents and then wait to kill us?!” Philip yelled, he had the same idea. A lofty laugh hugged my ears. The two people kicked their feet in hysterical laughter. I jerked my leg forward, the key now nestled under my boot. “My dears, why would we want to kill you,” the man exclaimed his voice still airy. He turned around and began to shrug off his jacket. I dragged my shoe closer. “Mother” began to hum absentmindedly as she pulled the jewels off her ears. “Why would you have tied us up and murdered our parents if you didn't want to off us too?” I asked, reaching my hands down to my ankle. “Mother’s” left eye twitched.  “Oh you misunderstand, we don’t want to kill you, not yet. If we were to spoil your flesh now then the last three months we spent flaunting about would have been a waste. The solstice is yet to be upon us, we must wait till the correct time of your death. We must all be patient,” she said almost as if she were trying to convince herself. I slipped my hand under my foot grasping the cold metal. “What are you talking about?” Philip questioned warily. I flipped the key onto its ridged side pushing it into the cloth on my wrist. The man began to slip off his shoes followed by the woman's heels. “You will be our gift to the queen. She hosts a grand feast every solstice and she just adores children, they are always especially exquisite,” he stated matter-of-factly. “Queen? How could we be a gift?” I asked feeling the last piece of the restraints hanging loosely by frayed strings under my fingertips.“Ignorant girl, you will not speak of the highest mistress in that way. You will become her meal, foul words do taste oh so wretched on your tongue. And we can only have the best for the queen.” ‘No way’ I thought. Philips eyes met mine, distress plastered on his face, he had come to the same conclusion. The queen was having a feast and we were to be the main course. I gulped an all-consuming horror filling my gut. The bonds on my wrists falling silently to the floor broke me out of my stupor.  I scurried quickly grabbing them and continued acting as if my hands were tied. I let out a heavy breath. My brain seemed to still be catching up with my body as it tried to process the fact that the murderers wanted to keep us as food. I looked up at our captors, their backs greeting my line of sight. I tapped Philip, never breaking eye contact between the two bodies. His head swerved. I flicked the key behind my back. His eyes glided to the glinting gold. He nodded firmly pursing his lips, he understood what he had to do. I pressed the key into his soft palm. Philip ripped away at the bonds on his wrists. Our captors seemed content in standing looking at the wall. Strange. Though I was not complaining. Philip tapped me with his finger. I looked over staring at his red-streaked but fabric-free arms. I smiled grimly, directing him to place them behind his back. A sudden hope filled me like a blistering light embracing my chest. Maybe we could escape. However, this newfound joy quickly diminished as the two figures turned. I gasped. Though their deranged grins from ear to ear were unnerving their skin was downright disgusting. It was peeling in red angry clumps climbing vulgar and coarse down their arms and faces. It became glaringly clear that our captors were not human as I watched. 


Philip squirmed back into the closet wall. One of the things began to scratching at the irritated skin letting out bubily giggles then the other followed suit. Soon both were tearing at their bodies hands filled with old foul skin. I reeled in disgust. It seemed where their skin previously lay was a layer of sheen flesh, it drooped out of the bare areas. It looked as if they were ripping away a latex suit much too small for their bodies revealing a repulsive form underneath. I looked away, peering into Philips's nauseated face. I felt bile rise in my throat. Philip held onto me clutching my arms his breath resting on my ear. “Ophelia we need to get out of here” he whispered not daring to look back at the two creatures. I nodded squinting behind Philips's form. 

“Theirs a switch behind you. I think it may be for the lights” I exclaimed as the crazed laughter continued. “When I flip it grab my hand and run to the door with me.” I instructed, I felt him squeeze my hand in confirmation.

“Okay, one, two, three” the lights flashed off. I scrambled to my feet as confused screeches sounded from the corner of the room. I began sprinting blindly in the direction of the doorway my mind transitioning into overdrive. Philip trailed close behind me. I stopped in my tracks feeling the hairs on my arms stand as a cold grip settled on my wrist. 


“Where do you think you going” a male voice reverberated through the room. I tensed. Abruptly Philip let go of my hand, he wouldn’t leave me. Would he? An unexpected howl yanked me out of my doubt as I heard a thud beside me. Calamity spiraled around me. The grip on my wrist loosened as Philips's grasp returned. His hands were strangely sticky. A female shout joined the mix and thumping footsteps crowded my ears. “Keep going!” Philip screamed. I nodded continuing my dash to the door. Through the darkness, my hand met the dry wood of the doorway. We made it. But the victory was short-lived, it was shattered by a female voice. 


“You think you can get away from me? HA. I can smell the boisterous absolute fear. And I know exactly where it's coming from.” Suddenly the lights switched on painting the room. We were standing frozen in the doorway. The female creature was croached by the switch her complexion washed in yellow light. Her companion sat unconscious sprawled on the floor eyes punctured with the golden key. Philips's hands were stained red. Crimson washed the creature's features in bright gory tissue, his lips holding back warm blood.  She smiled.


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CHAPTER 6

When Little Ducklings Run


“When little ducklings run, they never cease to aggravate, and they always trip on their tails,” she said as she sauntered to the doorway. I pushed Philip behind me taking slow steps back.“Can you keep yours between your legs, Ophelia?” a maniac look lit her face. I sucked in a breath and turned on the balls of my feet and began to do exactly as she said.


I was running again. Faster than my legs thought possible. I could feel the heat of Philip's flesh, the thump of my own heart in my throat. Everything was a blur, the floor, the paintings, and the smiling daisies. I tumbled down the stairs Philip in hand scrambling to my feet the moment I hit the bottom. My surroundings crumbled to insignificance as a shrill cry sounded seconds behind me. 

“You can’t get far, darling! Make life a little easier for your mama.” she cried. My bones turned to ice, my muscles winding my entire body tightly. Philip panted beside me but we couldn’t stop. Adrenaline bloated my veins, it was in my blood.  Through my soiled hair, I could just see the door. It spiraled in front of me, it was the escape. I grasp Philip's waist thrusting him onto the door. A thump causes tremors to run up and down the house. My head swiveled back. I regretted sparing a glance. The creature now appeared to be a clump of fleshy material more so than in any form of a human. It sat at the bottom of the stairs, dilated pupils lit with desire. “You know the queen can always have just one of you! One can be sparred, why I'm famished after all.” it howled. The creature laughed in a crazed manner, its bulbous stomach dragging on the floor leaving behind a trail of yellow discharge. I didn’t want to see the scene in the first place, yet I couldn’t look away. I watched in transfixed awe and disgust as it dragged itself across floor boards with manicured fingers. I was faintly aware of Philip beginning to fumble with the lock as it approached. The creature was 2 meters away. Philips's clammy hands slipped along the metal knob. It was 1 meter away. Its clawed hands left tracks in the wood. Philip gripped the metal object again. 4 feet. He twisted his wrist. 2 feet. A strange gooey drool-like liquid left its mouth in a flood of pus. I moved my hands to the door handle. 4 inches. I turned around facing the door.  Shadows danced closer, and a sporadic hand approached my back. 2 inches. I grabbed Philips's hand closing my eyes. Click. 


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