My name is Waylon Park. I am not a woman.
It should come as no surprise, then, that I was confused.
I was in an attic, I think. Dust particles danced in the light that trickled in through the wooden beams. I was not alone. I could hear them laughing, taunting me from somewhere. But as far as I knew, this part of the attic had been sealed off - too hard to enter because of all the items that were stacked on top of each other all around me.
At the time, I had been grateful for it.
At the time, I had thought someone had strategically made it so that nothing could get in.
At the time.
The area around me was crowded with years of unused objects - toppled shelves, broken chairs and tables, wooden crates and boxes labelled in variety. The sparse lighting made every shadow look ominous, even animate depending on where you were standing. There were no passages, no paths and there wasn't a way in hell that I was going to travel through the walls again where my pursuers would find me.
The only way to go was a long, straight staircase - with old, worn steps and a rickety banister - that led down, down into darkness.
It's as if the harder I try to escape, the deeper I get.
But this was not what confused me.
What confused me was the laughing, taunting voices of the crazy women that had chased me here - who seemed to think that they had done a good job even though they hadn't caught me.
“Here comes your bride, Mr Gluskin,” the first voice said, “Here comes the bride.”
I heard the second one snort and return, “Fucking idiot delivered his own self to Gluskin's hell.”
And the most jarring: “We give him the other flesh and he spares ours.”
What were they talking about?
And that name... Gluskin... I had heard it or read it somewhere before. I was sure of it.
I took a deep breath, still feeling as though I had been herded here on purpose, and gripped the banister before taking the first step down.
Oh God, the silence.
Why was it so quiet?
Why was it so still, so peacefully restless - so that only I could disturb it?
Why was the air filled with the sound of the creaks of the steps beneath my shaking feet and the shallow breaths leaving my trembling lips?
Lower and lower I went, the darkness enveloping me in its own kind of cold, making the hairs on my arms rise with goosebumps. I wondered, for a moment, whether there was any source of light at all down there. I took another step and the banister shook, unable to support my weight. I almost cried out, but the groan from the banister was enough for that scream to die - frozen - in my throat. The sound echoed around the room, the noise filling that awful silence wholly. I cursed myself inside my head and stood rigid for a moment - waiting for any sign, any sound that the groan had gained attention. When I felt I had caused no curiosity, I stepped down with more caution, flinching every time my steps squeaked and then echoed.
I found the floor, the dust shifting and debris cracking under my bare feet. I could make out shapes in the dark. This looked like a recreational facility - I could see the silhouettes of old sewing machines sitting on tables, and mannequins wearing torn dresses and moth-eaten hats.
There was a light coming from an open doorway on the opposite side, the faint sound of music ringing out from there.
Oh, why hadn't I just stayed outside? Hid up in a tree until daylight?
I clamped my lips shut to seal in any whine or whimper that might escape them, and crouched down behind a table. I scuttled towards the flickering light - splinters and squishing entities sticking to my feet. The music became more and more clear as I edged closer. It was an old number, perhaps by many decades, and I didn't recognise it. It sounded like it was being played from a gramophone. I gripped the frame of the doorway, more confident now about the noise I was making. You couldn't possibly hear it over that song. The room was shielded from my view by a large, dirty curtain that had probably been white at some point in its sad little existence.
I stared at the curtain for a moment, the corny song wailing at the peak of its volume from somewhere beyond it.
I had to go past it, didn't I?
At least, passed the curtain, there was that small chance of me being able to see some psychotic lunatic before he came to attack me. But in the dark...?
Oh, what difference did it make? If he attacked me I'd be dead either way! Why would I want to see it coming?
Waylon, you are terrible at making decisions! From now on, I'd be letting my wife do all the deciding for me - where I work, when I sleep, what I eat - and I would love her for it, because I am clearly an idiot! I am never, ever making a decision ever again until the day I die!
After I made it out of here.
If I made it out of here.
Preferably alive, but probably dying.
Nice. Happy thoughts, Waylon, you're doing great!
I rose slightly, gulping down what reasonable, sane voice I had in my head and crept forward. I moved to the curtain, looked beneath it - finding nothing but more tables and chairs beyond it, and even a window that cast a pale light on the rotting floorboards. I smiled and got under the curtain.
And then I realised: the world with never, ever, ever be a happy place ever again.
Not for me.
What the hell was...?
Oh my God...
I stood up, my eyes glued to the scene beside me - the sheer disgust and horror holding me in place and refusing to let me go. There were no words to describe such a sickening thing... I backed up, holding a desk for support - not caring as it screeched across the ground - and just stared at it: unable to comprehend what it was and what kind of monster would do it.
I saw a man's body mutilated, arched back on a desk, its legs tied down and splayed, naked, an adult head stuck - almost as if emerging - in what was between, blood and... and white fluid sprayed out on the wood.
It was a mimicking a birthing, I realised.
Mimicking... or mocking?
The smell reached me. Like putting a copper penny in your mouth. And the decay, the sound of flies.
And that horrible music!
I got out of the light, unable to banish the image from my mind. It was there, like a layer upon my vision as I walked away from it, visible even when I closed my eyes. Imprinted, scarred on my memory.
Why would someone do that?
To express some perverse fantasies of... of what exactly? Child-birth? Why was that something to fantasize about?
I sat in a dusty corner and put my head in my hands, that warbling voice singing from somewhere behind me.
What had I gotten myself into...?
I sniffed and rubbed my eyes quickly, moving as far from the light as I could and avoiding the windows. Light was bad from now on, I decided. I'd rather stumble around the dark and die, than see something like that ever again. I entered another room, the darkness drawing me in. I felt around, using touch to guide me around tables and over boxes. The floorboards creaked beneath me and my bare feet cut on broken wood. I hissed in pain, but it didn't worry me. I stepped in something slick and sticky, and shut my eyes, willing myself to carry on.
There were a set of double doors ahead of me. Did they lead down stairs?
Away from this?
Away from whatever insane, sick thing that lived here?
Hope drove me to stumble across to the doors and look through the rectangular windows on the doors. I could see nothing but abstract shapes and their dark shadows. I huffed, bent my head down and tried to turn the round knob.
“Oh, come on,” I muttered, trying to get them to budge.
I froze, my eyes widening and looked up.
“Darling!” said a smiling face.