Sleeping uneasily on the couch downstairs, he tosses and turns trying to shut out the music he keeps thinking he hears from the five pianos in the living room. The fire is dying out but it still seems to cast gnarled shadows that could really be a half-real pianist, and if that pianist is real he swears it favors the ornate mahogany grand against the far wall. The four vintage uprights, however, seem mercifully retired for the night.
He turns to face the back of the couch and try to shut this place out, thinking how he should have caught a cab home instead. The acidic glow from the streetlamps casts more strange shadows through the stained glass and lace curtains, he tries to hide his face to block them out. It’s just this place, he thinks. This old house gives him the heebie-jeebies and now that he’s too tired to drive home his mind’s playing tricks on him. Go to sleep, it’s fine.
Maybe he could have slept soundly had he asked to sleep upstairs, but… well, it was going to be the couch either way, better not to ask.
Perhaps he’s finally fallen asleep and is now dreaming or maybe he’s just woken up but he thinks he hears faint tribal drumming, maybe some creaking floors. His heart starts pounding and then he hears a faint echo calling his name. Breathes jagged now, trying to tell himself he’s imagining things. Too many cheesy horror flicks, too many campfire ghost stories when he was a kid.
But he’s not imagining that sudden draft and the crisp sizzle sound of the rain and distant traffic on the slick road through windows that aren’t supposed to be open… at least he thinks he isn’t.
He dares to poke his head up and sees a orangey-grey glow coming down the stairs. Fumbles for his glasses and creeps on shaky legs towards the staircase, moving very slowly.
Her bedroom door is flung open, as are the curtains blowing in the breeze and the windows are up and open too. Orange glow from the streetlamps. No sign of her. He can’t see her in the backyard either and where the Hell would she have gone anyway? One of the two locked rooms she’s never let him see? But those are still padlocked – from the hallway side.
He calls for her, no answer. Creeps back downstairs, tries to fumble to turn on lights as he goes but can’t find any switches. Nothing. No one.
Tries to lay back down and tell himself again that he’s dreaming or hallucinating. He has no idea how long it’s been, every minute seems like an hour but then again there seems no space between events as they echo through his mind.
A loud gong sounds somewhere and he’s not sure if that’s real either, but now the glow upstairs is green and alongside the rain and the howling wind he thinks he hears chanting. The draft is gone and the fire is roaring again.
Is she toying with him? He thinks he would have heard her is she came down to light the fire and play tricks on him, he doesn’t think he’s slept yet, but maybe not… He gets the courage to holler at her what the fuck is going on. No answer. Still no sign of her.
Runs upstairs enraged now.
Gasps and stops dead at the source of the green glow. Where one of the locked doors was he sees himself naked and half transformed into a beast: glossy ram’s horns sprouted from his temples and coiling around to frame his face, contorted in that holler from the stairs. Fangs. His shaggy black hair sprawling down his shoulders into shaggy black fur, tapering off somewhat towards his belly. Strange ears flop out behind the horns. A gaudy gold and black Faberge egg cradled in his left hand. Right hand reaches out towards him, almost touching…
Screams and bolts down the stairs to find he cannot open the front door to escape. Yanks, shakes the knob, throws his whole weight into it, nothing moves.
Hears heavy breathing coming from upstairs, maybe even a couple footsteps.
Plan B: to the bathroom, the only room he can seem to flick the lights on in to banish the shades. Sits back against the door to barricade it and tries to catch his breath.
No more sleep in this hellhouse, he’ll wait it out til daylight. How much longer can it be?
Daylight… if only…