Cold and Ancient
Washington was a sight to behold. The State that is. Escaping the abhorrent inferno of Texas summer to the crisp-cool weather, overcast skies, lush forests, imposing mountains, and the scenic Pacific coast was an axiomatic improvement for my soul. My eclectic and eccentric uncle (rest in peace) had always been a favorite of mine and I always loved when we would embark on family vacations to visit him in the magical northwest. Naturally upon his passing I was grieved and simultaneously taken aback at the news that he had left a portion of his estate to me in his will. I suppose the fact that he did wasn’t what surprised me but what it was. A property a little ways from his home near the coast. It was just outside Grisdale, an abandoned ghost town at the edge of the Olympic Peninsula Forests. All these years my dear uncle not once made mention of this property and my own father was unaware of his brother’s second house! I could hardly contain myself at the thought of owning a home in Washington just outside of a large national forest. I made preparations to drive up there and meet a couple acquaintances our family had made through our uncle over the years. We would check it out together which accomplished two things; open the possibility of renting this property out to a couple roommates, and put my mother’s mind at ease. No matter how old one grows a mother always worries over her children.
Meeting Michael and Chris in Olympia we prepared to make the 70+ mile journey toward Grisdale where we would follow the directions given by my uncle to the aloof property. The atmosphere was exquisitely ethereal in the whole state! I couldn’t wait to see this house hoping it wouldn’t be too dilapidated so I could move in as soon as possible. Passing through the ghost town that is Grisdale I must confess to having an ominous feeling. Where once there was bustle and life now only silence. Albeit human silence. Life still abounds regardless of whether or not man treads. That I know very well. Driving further and further towards the Olympic forest the atmosphere became ever more placid. How much more foliage could burst forth from the earth’s womb were it to do so unabated? Finally we came upon what had to be the property. It was a two story that was rather dated and to my dismay in my uncle’s absence the forests had seized upon the old house making it quite verdant. Working to free the old dwelling of the vines and foliage proved most difficult as the truculent nature had become most recondite. Still we were determined and our persistence was rewarded once we entered the home as nature had not made its way inside. Dusty and neglected absolutely but that was the least of my worries. With nightfall fast approaching we pulled out our electric lanterns and went about hanging and sticking our lights where it was most needed.
Fixing up the old building was not as hard as expected. It was not a tawdry structure which I believed to be a testament to old architecture. In times past things were built to last. Perhaps it’s a revealing commentary on the stark contrast between our cultures. For another day I suppose. We spent the next few nights there before supplies began to run short and we deliberated on the closest city where we could scavenge sufficient food and water. Before we left Michael mentioned that there was a room on the second floor that he had not been able to enter and inquired if I had a key. Chris and I were taken aback as neither of us had found a room we could not enter in the 3 days we spent in the home. I told him I had no key and we followed him upstairs where we passed 3 doors two on one side. One held living quarters, one was a bathroom and the last a den of sorts. But shockingly there it was! A fourth door at the end of the hallway. Solitary and defiantly clear as day even while being shrouded in darkness. I noted how remarkably cold it felt here. Almost unnaturally cold. Chris and I turned to each other and gave each other a dumbfounded glance before laughing at our own carelessness. After trying the door and giving it a good nudge I realized I would have to pick the lock which shouldn’t be too difficult as it was rather old. I advised that we should re-supply before we carry on and with everyone in agreement we headed to the nearest town.
Although it had been an adventurous and rewarding few days it was nice to be back in a little bit of civilization. Lamp posts, grocery stores, gas pumps, and tarmac roads were a most welcome sight. After having a few cups of coffee we headed back to the house where the forests had become vivacious and the nightfall voracious. I knew it would be vastly different from the Texas summer nights I was raised in but this was like being on another planet. We made a few trips back and forth into the house all the while looking out at the pitch blackness before us listening to the hoots of owls wondering how many creatures out there were capable of killing us. We dared not ponder too long and moved quickly to secure ourselves inside. Before even unpacking our supplies I pulled out the lock pick set I purchased and Michael and Chris’ eyes lit up. We grabbed our lanterns and headed back upstairs but to our supreme shock there was no fourth door! It was gone. At the end of the hallway was just wall! This could not be and yet it was. The others and I all wondered and deliberated among ourselves as to this insane mystery positing theories each one more vacuously implausible than the last until we gave up in frustration owing it all to imagination or the trick of shadow. Secretly I think we all knew better after all I had physically tried to force my way in!
That night rest came quickly as we had exhausted ourselves throughout the day. And it was there in my deepest dream-state that I heard it. A wordless voice without any discernible source, just a deep sighing exhalation. I lay there half awake waiting for a sign that it was worth getting out of bed to investigate. Then a thudding from upstairs. It must be Michael or Chris. They had laid claim to the upstairs bedroom and den area. I groggily rose from bed throwing on pants, shoes, shirt and jacket as the nights here were much colder than i was accustomed to. The last thing I was going to do was walk barefoot in a frigid wooden house. I grabbed my lantern and headed through the kitchen and ascended the staircase quietly. I saw that the bedroom door was cracked open and headed inside to find it empty. Strange I thought, Michael must have gone into Chris’ room to check on him. But before I could open Chris’ door I saw the fourth door. It was there! I gasped in direful amazement. Not only was the door there but it was cracked open. Did Michael open it somehow and enter to examine it? I furtively approached and was met by that otherworldly chill. It was so cold even with my jacket on and I could not see anything beyond that slight opening. It was just a cloistered chasm of gelid blackness. No I thought, I’m not doing this by myself and turned to awaken Chris but as I turned I saw a black silhouette standing deformed in the hallway.
I raised my lantern to see a maniacal portrait of what was once Michael. His left eye had sunken and his right was wider than should be possible as if paralyzed with terror. He was completely naked and his posture was torturous to behold. His head was cocked to one side as though being pinched on the shoulder by an invisible force. His right hand was twisted like someone with advanced and woefully painful arthritis. In his left hand was a lumpy bloody pulp which I could not immediately identify. It just dripped and dripped until I realized it was a human heart.
“What’s happening!? Did you kill Chris?! Michael!”
A bestial wheezing emitted from his gaping mouth and suddenly he dropped the heart and lumbered forward! He moved as unnaturally as you could expect. He was more animal, thrusting his body forward like a gorilla on all fours. Without a moment’s thought I flung open the impossible fourth door and slammed it shut pulling the handle as hard as I could. The bang indicated that Michael or whatever he had become was throwing himself against the door to reach me. He wasn’t trying the handle just slamming his body as a mindless creature. Hesitantly I relaxed my grip on the handle and immediately he yanked the door open! I pulled back but not before he forced his head far enough in for me to behold his crazed eye and gaping mouth. He had blood running down his chin and to my horror I saw pieces of flesh still in his mouth. He had been feasting on Chris! I wanted to retch but had to keep my composure or become his next victim. His tongue wriggled out trying to taste my hands as his jaws snapped rabidly for my flesh. I managed to pick up one leg pressing it against the wall as I used my whole body to slam it shut once more slicing his still protruding tongue clean off. I heard a blood curdling scream on the other side of the door that I fear I will never forget as long as I live.
“Michael, my God….”
I slid down with my back to the door collapsing and curling into a ball weeping. What is happening?! Michael was fine a few hours ago! What boorish and vulgar sickness could have vexed him into a state of maddening cannibalism? I didn’t have long to ponder these violent events before that long exhaling sound pierced the air again. This time it was louder and vibrated through the ground and my body. For the first time I raised my head and peered out ahead to find I was not in a small room. The impossible fourth door had led me to yet another staircase. There were only two stories to this house and yet defiantly this staircase stood before me beckoning me up to the small light source at the top. It looked like yet another door with pale blue light outlining the edges just enough to make the steps. I dared not go back to face the madness that was my friend just a short time ago. Wiping my eyes with my jacket and rubbing my hands together to warm them I rose and began walking up the steps. One at a time my feet clicked and clacked echoing as if I were in a grand hall. It was inconsistent. As I reached the final step I was shivering. I did not know if it was from pure terror mixed with adrenaline or the absolute chill I felt in the air. I looked down at my shaking hand as I grasped the doorknob. I hesitantly turned and pushed the door open to release a brilliantly blinding bluish white light which penetrated every inch of the stair case all the way down to the fourth door. I threw my arms up and over my eyes as I stumbled forward.
I fear my entry must end here as I have reached the allotted word limit. But there is oh so much more to tell….