Cadaverus Helskur simmered in darkness. From his alcove he had a serviceable view over the main hall. And it was not a pleasing one.
These self-invited guests, these trespassers muddied and dampened his cold, inhospitable flagstones. Two of them, even now, wiped their footwear, infested with outside-matter, on his UNWELCOME rug.
The house sent the clear message from every corner. He might as well have daubed plague warnings on the doorposts and these infiltrators would have ignored the signs and traipsed in regardless.
He snarled under the next rumble of thunder. Two half-eaten figures shambled past his alcove on another circuit of the landing.
He tracked their dragging walk all the way to the end, where they locked dead gazes on the hanging holy symbol. Shying from its pious presence, they turned the corner and shuffled on their way to the next bend and the next symbol.
Helskur’s closest estimate was that they had completed fifteen circuits since setting forth. Half-past two of the clock.
Accuracy. Greater precision. That was what Helskur craved. The house was a masterpiece but it would need to measure time in finer increments if it was to be a master timepiece.
Such was the essence and thrust of his latest notes. Refinements and modifications, beyond the house striking the hours.
He had considered some provocation of the undeceased vocal cords. When first released, the uncreatures celebrated their dimly perceived freedom with their mournful, hungering song. But these two had since fallen silent, shuffling on and on, round and round in their clockwise trek.
Perhaps if the undead had moaned louder, they might have scared the unwanted back out into the arms of the storm.
But no. They remained silent as corpses.
And below in the hall the intruders intruded. Shepherded by this one female, they availed themselves of all the absence of facilities the hall provided. Setting their baggage down here and there, offloading their rain-soaked coats, tugging and kicking off their boots and unpacking their bedrolls. Making themselves right at home.
These people. Ignorant. Human. They would probably make themselves at home in a grave with no sense of the impropriety or offence.
Half past two of the clock and – he sighted the two patrollers now working their way across the opposite side of the landing – half a circuit.
Too long to wait for three of the clock. Too long to endure invaders tainting the stones and driving the chill into retreat with their warm blood and breath.
Helskur counted the humans.
Living outnumbered the undead by three to one.
But Helskur knew their type.
Somewhere distant, far before the house counted time, before its gears had ground through their first hour, Helskur had experienced pieces of an outside life. Society. Theatre. These humans belonged to that artistic breed. Sensitive, emotional, weak. They pretended to live. For a living. And people who had little lives paid coin to watch these people enact pretend lives. Actors. Yes, that was their breed. Pretend living. Parading the boards with as much claim to real life as the undead who toured the house every hour, on the hour.
Yes, weak. Timid of real life, they would be utterly terrified of real death.
Helskur would not, could not, wait to see them scatter and run from his house.
Bending low, he pressed himself to the wall and crept along it to the row of levers that filled the next alcove.
He pulled on one of the levers. Mechanisms clanked and grated. Time protesting the change.
The holy symbol of Meloch travelled the ceiling rail, clattering like a train, from the corner of the landing to the head of the stairs.
Down in the hall, the troupe of the pretend living looked up, anxious and alarmed by the mechanical noises.
The symbol locked into place with a slight bump and swung like a deadened wind chime. Mute and musicless.
Lightning ignited the landing. Just as the two undead shambled towards the symbol. Confronted with its divine radiance, they turned and trudged down the stairs.
Sisily gasped. After calling out for anyone at home, the sight of the two figures descending the stairs was unexpected and strangely disconcerting.
She realised she’d much preferred seeing them up on the landing. The holy symbol’s sudden movement had startled her and her friends. Perhaps it had also startled these two in their sleepwalk.
They stared. Eyes wide open but devoid of life. Blind? Maybe that was why they held their arms outstretched before them as they trudged down the steps. One by one. By one. By one.
Sisily backed up – into Livier.
And in the next flare of lightning she saw the decayed grins of the two somnambulists.
Sisily stared, helpless, at the remnant flesh clinging to the skulls of the shambling figures. They stared back. And their lifeless eyes seemed to see her well enough.
They advanced on the troupe, rotten hands clutching and grasping.
Livier screamed a shrill womanly scream.
[To Be Continued…]