This is my only day off for I’ve been pulling about sixty hours for the past three weeks. As a result, my room is trashed, littered with clothes, and coffee mugs. I’m afraid I have ants on my writing desk. I wish I could pay someone to clean and do laundry while I sleep. Instead I did manage to get some work clothes washed for round four and wrote the teaser chapter for the next book. That is what I call time management.
Welcome to Boilertown
The room she found herself in was similar to the one in the house in Abernathy Avenue. She had no idea how she made it back upstairs for the last thing she remembered was staring at the splintered wood of the entrance to the coal chamber in the cellar. She looked around the dining room, it was still the same front room, it had the same shape and dimension but it looked bigger and more spacious. There was no furniture, and no vast collections adorned the shelves. The floor was covered with plush throws, ornately woven carpets, and plump tasseled pillows. Instead of a vast number of shelves, tapestries covered the walls. “How?” she paused and asked the air as if coming out of a dream.
“That is exactly what I want to know.”
She spun around and found Grander standing there, his face a mix of shock and puzzlement. “No one comes in from the outside.”
“Huh?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge asked, unsure of what to say next. “Bracken?” she asked remembering he was the reason she was there in the first place; her nightmares.
“Who? What? Now tell me! Where did you come from?” There was desperation in his voice. “As I said before no one comes from the outside.”
“I came from-“she paused for a second and faced Max Grander, who seemed to look equally young and old at the same time and was currently not making any sense. Suddenly this was all too much for her to handle. She wanted to think of something to say, but nothing came out. So she just shut her mouth and turned around. “I came from my bed,” she resolved and that is where I am going to go. Good night.” She said and pushed past him.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Grander raised a warning hand and stepped in her direction barring her path.
“It is different here,” Grander said, his voice exasperated as if he was tired of explaining this to her. Time and space are different here, you know. I wouldn’t run off because I might not ever find you, whoever, or however you got here.”
“Maximillian Grander, it is me!”
“Don’t you Maximillian Grander me. I have no idea what that is.”
“I don’t have time for this, I’m going to bed.” The Spiritualist slipped past the confused looking Max Grander that denied being who he is. He protested but moved aside nonetheless, figuring she would soon find out on her own. Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge turned the corner of the room and placed a hand upon the railing and was about to take the first step. Instead she paused and looked up, and up, and up, as the painted black stairs stretched before her. There must have been hundreds if not thousands, a veritable stairway to heaven, or somewhere else, for the upstairs of the manor was no longer in site.
“See,” not Grander said as he appeared behind her.
The Spiritualist jumped in spite of herself and for a second swore she was still dreaming. She spun around and sat down on the first stair. Her bedroom and back to some semblance of sanity seemed so far away. “What? Where are we?” She asked her voice was hopeless.
“I don’t know what this place is called exactly.” Grander’s voice and face were grim set as he answered her. “But I refer to it as Boilertown.”
“What?” She couldn’t help but ask again as she stood back up and looked around at the bottom of the stairs, and to her utter befuddlement she saw that the adjoining rooms of the kitchen and the parlor might as well have been miles apart from each other. It was also the first time she realized that the dastardly cat that led her there in the first place was nowhere to be seen. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Mr. Grander?” She turned around to face him.
“Why do you keep calling me that?” he was greatly puzzled at his new house guest. “How did you get here?”
Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge shook her head looking as if she made up her mind. The room that she was in held true to its dimensions, the front door was in view. That is where she planned to make her exit. She wondered why she hadn’t have done so earlier. “I’m leavening now.”
“I’m afraid you’re not.” He shook his head; his voice didn’t sound threatening there was more of a heavy truth to his words. ”You can’t leave this place. I’ve tried.”
The Spiritualist chose to ignore his warning. She was beginning to wonder what had happened in her previous life for her to end up in the accursed manor on Abernathy Avenue in the first place and what she had done to deserve it.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” He said and shook his head for he already knew what was going to happen as his new and confused surprise house guest made a mad dash for the front door. He tried his best to reason with her. But he also knew she would find out soon enough, and the truth would be unbearable. He watched her visage shrink in the distance that spanned before him. He took a step forward following her, keeping a steady pace, for now he had a journey to make.
“Oh no,” she wheezed as she as she burst into a full on sprint. “Not again,” she didn’t know far she gotten but the front door wasn’t moving anywhere. It should have only taken her a few swift steps to reach her destination but it felt like she ran a mile already. Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge hated running, it was the worst. She wheezed again gasping with the strain, she could feel her face growing as red as her hair. She forced legs to push her faster. The door was still within sight but it was if she was sprinting in place. With a final burst of will she propelled herself forward. She groaned and closed her eyes as she felt her feet lift off the ground as she catapulted to the exit. Just as she thought she could fly no further she landed and the tips her fingers touched the wood molding of the door and the heavy leaden fabric of the curtains. She opened her eyes to see that she had made it. But her exhausted celebration was short lived as she madly grabbed for the door knob to find it was not there. She only grasped air. She got a closer look to see that there wasn’t one. “NO,” she said and repeated as she patted down every surface. “No, no, no, no, no.” The Spiritualist threw back the heavy leaden gray curtain revealing a plate-glass window. She remembered the curtains were lacy and wispy and the glass not being as thick nor tinted a putrefying green color. She squinted out the window and then her eyes went wide.
The front porch with the crumbling bricks, wobbly railing, and rotten roof that she remembered were all but obliterated. So was the ground around the house. It was craggy and full of holes as if it had been blasted. Then she realized as the glass wasn’t tinted at all. The air was filled with a heavy haze that contained swirls of yellows, browns, greens, and reds. The Spiritualist could not put a finger on the color for did not know if a name for it even existed. Her eyes grew wider as she stared in horror as the cloud of heavy murk dissipated slightly as it wafted by and she saw forms shifting about in the rubble ridden world. “What,” she asked herself and then amended, “who?” for she saw that there were people outside the house. “What are they doing out there?” she asked shocked as she turned around to see to see the man that wasn’t Grander was still some distance away. She didn’t want to look back out the window but she couldn’t peel herself away. “How are they even alive?” She asked herself for they looked deader than anything, with flesh that sloughed off exposing bare bones that seemed to glow under the odd irradiated light. She could see the empty eye sockets as they continued to blindly go about their business. There were too many to count before the cloud cover once again took over. She heard a whistle ring out from sky above that grew incrementally louder as something descended at a deafening speed. The house rumbled under the weight of the sound, outside the sky lit up in a blinding light. “No!” she saw in horror and spun around as a flaming rock plummeted to the ground. The house shook violently upon impact obliterating everything outside. She turned away from the door and shut her eyes and covered her ears, still seeing the flash as it pulverized the people outside. When she opened them again, the man that claimed to not be Grander, but definitely did look like him approached her. His face looked grave. “I’m afraid there is no more outside,” he said. His was voice steady for he did not run like she did. He slung back the curtain, and she was thankful for the dust and rock filled haze that once again descended, obliterating the view. “That was close,” he stated as he looked around grateful that the manor still stood erect.
The Spiritualist did not want to look out there ever again. So she turned against it and sank to the floor with her back sliding down against the door. “How?” She asked herself as another dark conclusion came to her, what if she really was awake. What if this was her life now? “Oh no,” She muttered and looked up at him with her eyebrows in a knot.
He glanced down at her in a grim grin in agreement to her sentiment.
“This is another nightmare, it has to be.” She stood up again once she managed to pull herself together. The Spiritualist put her arms up, brought her fingers together and delivered a vicious pinch to Max Grander’s forearms.
“Owww,” he squirmed and reeled under her grasp. “Why are you doing that!?” his voice was shocked as he managed to squirm free as he rubbed and patted the aggravated skin to try to soothe it.
With her finger still held together she brought them up to her face to study them. His skin felt real enough. She lowered her left hand to about waist high and crooked her elbow in and gave her own forearm a hard pinch. Digging her fingernails into her skin, she bit her lip and whimpered before letting go choosing to hug her waist instead. “What? How? Where?” All the questions came on at once and she once again felt the floor rise up to meet her.
Not Max Grander dropped down beside her. His voice was sympathetic. “I’m afraid you’re not dreaming and I don’t recall how long I have been there.”
“What is this place? What happened here? And who are you?” She remembered the autonomous people she had seen outside, toiling away, despite the fact that they were burning. “Who are those people?” Then she asked the most important question as she looked him in the eyes. “What did you do?”
“What did I do? I survived. I woke up like
this, appeared out of nowhere much like you. A ‘friend’ brought me here before
he left me to go downstairs. I don’t know how long it has been since then. Time
doesn’t exist anymore. I’m afraid it is even collapsing in on itself at this
point. All I know is I’ve been here by myself, well sort of by myself, for a
very long time.”
Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge realized her mouth was hanging open; it was a lot of information to digest. “If you’re not Grander, then who are you?”
“I am called LeMerde.”
“Le-Who? That’s French for-“
“The Shit, I know.” He got back up, and offered a hand for the Spiritualist to do the same. She reluctantly accepted, and pulled herself up to stand beside him. Grander, LeMerde, she mentally corrected herself, brought a sweeping hand to the dining room and motioned dramatically outward to the rest of the house, declaring himself lord of his territory. “And this is all mine.”
“I thought you said that time was collapsing in on itself, how come everything is spread so far apart? Shouldn’t it be closer together?”
LeMerde shook his head, “it’s more like the water peeling back before a tsunami and I’m afraid the wave will crash here soon enough.” He let slip a small mad chuckle as he delivered the grave news. “Welcome to Boilertown.”
“Wait,” a thought dawned on the Spiritualist as she remembered the how of his tale of woe. “You were brought here by a ‘friend’ you said. Did he have long dark hair, tall, gaunt, and really super pale? Did he say his name was Bracken by any chance?”
“He didn’t quite look like that,” LeMerde tried to remember the face he tried so hard to forget. “No, he didn’t call himself Bracken then. His name is LeMorte.”
Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge thought about retiring to the floor again for she knew what that word meant as well. “I know where he is. He is downstairs.” She said slowly.
“I could have told you that, I saw him walk down those stairs and never come back up.”
“There is a machine down there in the cellar, somewhere, with a million orbs powered by a million souls. It is a contraption called The Consciousness. He has hooked himself up to it; he has been down there the entire time.”
LeMerde looked at the floor again as well as he could peer miles beneath the earth’s surface. “How do you know all of this?” he returned The Spiritualist’s gaze.
“I have just woken up from nightmares about all of this.” She shook her head and looked at the door to the cellar stairs. “I’m pretty sure I came from the coal chamber down there. How I ended up here is beyond me. If we are going to survive that is where we have to go.”
He turned toward the cellar door. The words were grave ones indeed. He was afraid she’d say something like that and he said as much. “Fine, okay.” He said after a spell for the downstairs frightened him. It defied all laws of reality, he had ventured down there once before and nearly made it back out with his life. He felt makeshift bandages on his chest and arms that hid beneath his shirt, they covered gruesome claw marks he was pretty sure were festering at this point. “We’ll go down to the cellar, but we have to be prepared. We have to be armed.”
“Armed?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge asked.
“There is someone I would like you to meet.”