|Subject: The House of Judas
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Date Posted: 09:51:16 04/20/01 Fri
Author Host/IP: host-209-214-107-105.bhm.bellsouth.net/188.8.131.52
Cecille parked her car on the side of the road, discovering the old trail easily even in the diminishing light. She took the ribbon from her hair, a dark cascade falling around her shoulders, the wind lifting strands biting with the teeth of winter. Her eyes found every limb lying in the path, every rock. Nimble legs carrying her to higher elevation, her quick paced walk turned into a lupine, graceful run. She didn’t stop until she reached the summit.
Below, the village stretched out. She waited to see the men coming in from the fields, bringing in the last corn and wheat of the season. How she loved watching them from this vantage point as the sun crashed into the surrounding mountains. So many times she spied on them as they raced against nightfall and the monsters it brought tumbling down with it. They were sweet to her, their pounding hearts, their toiled sweat, their ordinary lives.
She waited for the lights to flicker on inside their meager thatched homes, waited for the laughter of their children as they scurried in from a day of play and chores. She watched for the broad-hipped women to carry buckets of water in their heavy arms from their wells, but there was no one. The lights never came on. The children didn’t laugh. They were gone, their doors swaying open on their hinges, the houses the only testament of their existence.
What Claudine wrote in her letter was true. She walked back to the car and drove to the chateau, numb. Cold crams of dread constricted, squeezed the breath from her. Driving through the village, into the countryside where the fields lay choked and fallow, she didn’t recognize the place she entered into. Only ten years ago she walked this road leaving with the intention to never return. Then, the fields yielded their fruits in abundance. The people who worked the land had bellies that were full and coins sang their crystalline song from their purses.
Now, there was nothing, nothing but the Chateau de St. Sebastien and its starving inhabitants, her family, her curse. She could see the glare of candles intruding on the deepening night before she reached the gate. An eternity departed from this place wouldn’t have been long enough.
The scythe moon was the only guard, scraping furrows bleeding luminescence across the sky. She turned off the engine, leaving the keys in the switch, considering restarting the car and heading away from her ancestral home, this time for as long as life allowed her years and breath. Her genetic make up wouldn’t let her leave, though. She was insane, more insane than they were to return.
She could hear the howls, the arguing as she walked up the drive. As if she were a child, she trembled, accepting humbly the punishment soon to be dealt. Seeing their anger twisted, lust bent faces was punishment enough, shadowing every horror she had ever been forced to witness and endure. This was the inner circle of hell, the house of gluttony and treachery, hell and death and her blood kin were the devils readying themselves to cast brimstone into the eyes of their prodigal daughter.
The door gaped open, no servants rushing about to greet her, to prepare her welcome home feast. Once great, the grand hall had been transmitted into a tattered, surreal tapestry of dilapidation. Spider silk stretched from wall to wall, the candles melted into sputtering stubs of wax, throwing sinister shadows across the stone floor. What furniture that still stood was lost amongst the splinters and dust of shattered chairs and decoration. What caused this?
Jean-Lucien, the youngest of the St. Sebastien brood scurried on hands and knees, a clumsy feline, pursuing a dog sized rodent. He didn’t see her, only the corpse fattened rat, saliva dripping from his chin in thick strings. The clothes he wore were the ones she last saw him wearing, cloth insect chewed and filthy, his stench wafting towards her. His hands, claws, were stained black, his red hair, once so lustrous, hung well past his shoulders in matted, lice traveled tangles.
“That is the last rat,” Claudine spoke, suddenly behind Cecille.
She was so thin, her protruding cheekbones, her sunken eyes aflame with delirium, creating a mask of tormented death. Her beauty was spent, her long, lithe arms hanging limply at her sides, jagged nails corroded. A patch of blue green mold spread from her bruised throat and between her breasts.
“Mother and Father are waiting,” she said, her voice a hoarse, scraping whisper.
She bade Cecille to follow. “Where are the others?” she asked her sister as they neared their parents’ sleeping chambers.
“Phillipe has gone mad,” Claudine began. “We were forced to lock him in the tomb beneath the church altar. Madeleine walked into the noonday sun and was incinerated. The others abandoned us shortly after you left. It is only mother, father, Jean-Lucien and I.”
The smell of rot gagged Cecille as she entered the master bedchamber. Bodies were stacked three high, covering the floor, a livid mass of decay and vermin. They were forced to climb, then walk over them to reach the bed where her creators writhed, bloated, blood filled maggots. Sanguinary fluid seeped from their expanded flesh onto the rank sheets. She didn’t know them.
“Mother, Father,” Claudine announced, “she has returned.”
Their thick black tongues couldn’t form coherent words. On the wall, the ancient clock, the centerpiece of every nightmare she had ever dreamed, ticked, false eyes moving back and forth, watching and missing nothing. Such diabolical, penetrating eyes. They crawled up her spine with wormy coldness, leaving behind trails of slime.
“What has happened to them?” she gasped, turning to her sibling.
Claudine’s eyes reflected green gaseous fire. “When you departed, they became distraught. They sank into a dreadful depression, which could only be lifted by feeding. They drained every person in the village until there were none for the rest of us.”
“They are like leeches,” Cecille replied, stepping away from them, wanting to run.
The stiff arm of a young woman, jutting up from the carnage, tripped her. She fell, face forward into the stomach of one of the dead. A loud belch issued from the cadaver’s mouth, followed by a trickle of oily liquid, the remnants of internal organs gushing out.
Claudine laughed. “You deserve to wallow with them, with those you envied, coveted. How you wanted to join them, you Judas! Jean-Lucien and I are starving because of your fascination, your obsession, your desire to become something other than what you are, but my sweet, delicious sister, you are still a St. Sebastien. You can no longer deny us.”
Before she could respond, Jean-Lucien lunged. She danced with him into oblivion.
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