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Lines of Decent
from whence we came
The smell of kerosene briefly penetrated the air before it was whisked away by the wind. Not the soft wind known from summer nights, but something stronger, seemingly a prediction of what was to come. Something flickered for a short moment before darkness settled again.
Complete darkness, moon hidden by dark clouds. No light penetrating the absolute blackness.
A moment later, one of the clouds cleared away for just a moment, the full moon bright and illuminating the scene. A figure was ducking out of the door, closing it softly behind him.
The clouds shifted again and the darkness returned. Only a reddish glow inside the house gave warning for what was to come, a brief warning – one that wasn’t heard.
The quiet shattered when flames shot up inside of the house, and moments later, the air was filled with thick smoke, heat of flames and desperate screams.
“Oh really, Mom, why do we have to go there?”
“Because it’s a piece of history,” Catherine said, smirking at her son’s expression.
“God, Bobby, stop whining. A little bit of culture will do you good,” Parker said, rolling her eyes and grabbing the railing when a wave clashed against the boat.
“Shut up, Parker,” Bobby snapped.
Her eyes narrowed when she looked over to her twin this time. “Or what?” she asked, her tone slightly lowered to a dangerous hiss.
“Stop it, both of you,” Catherine shook her head, not interfering otherwise though. The two were fire and ice together, always needling each other and riling the other up. She didn’t know if it was sibling rivalry as people often suggested, but her two children were definitely a handful.
She turned back around when the boatman spoke through the loudspeakers.
“They say that the souls of the damned walk on that Island. Something that offended God himself happened on that land. Only evil leaves that place.”
Catherine nearly groaned at the words. Damn tourist traps, always making a huge spectacle out of things - though, admittedly, it was rather uncanny what had happened on that Island.
She looked over to her friend and found her watching, offering a small smile when they made eye contact. Catherine returned the smile, then looked back at her twins, watched Parker gazing out over the sea.
“They say it,” the boy shifted behind the girl, coming up on her other side, “spooks there,” he finished in a mysterious voice, mocking.
“You’re an idiot, Jarod,” Parker said with another roll of her eyes. God, those two would eventually drive her insane - and if they kept up with it, she would be forced to take action soon. Maybe she could throw at least one of them overboard and get rid of them?
“You’re up to something,” Jarod commented.
Parker arched an eyebrow and turned towards him. She didn’t argue though – a warning in itself. She watched as Jarod mimicked her posture to rile her up some more. Parker waved a dismissive hand and turned back around, watching the Island come into better view.
They called it the Island of the Haunted. She couldn’t help the small shiver that ran down her spine at the sight of the Island, fog hanging around and obscuring the land, uncanny and somehow fitting for the name.
“Most boatmen around here would rather take their chances in the sea, than set on foot on that land,” came the boatman’s distorted voice through the speakers.
Parker saw some people shift a little from out of the corner of her eye. She rolled her eyes – this time not at her twin or Jarod, but at the people on the boat with them, who were planning on satisfying their craving for sensation. Morons. Spook-stories and they fell for it.
There was a stretch of sand, a small beach and directly behind it the woods started. Her eyes searched the beach but it was empty. Next, a pier came into view. At the end of it there was a white little house with light blue window frames. Once they drew closer, she could see the white paint was peeling from the wood, leaving grayish patches.
“Strange place,” Jarod muttered next to her; she had to agree.
Wind furthered the fire, pushing it on, making it reach for fabric, wood and stone. Flames licked at everything, ravishing wood and burning stone.
The dark figure that moved towards the house stood in stark contrast to the bright flames. Steps spoke of hesitation, torn between bolting and daring.
He hadn’t even gotten a glimpse of the place. The more they saw, the stranger she found this Island.
The small town looked old, as though they had been thrown back in time and were now in the beginning of the 19th century; people were driving horse wagons, the streets were paves with stones and the people’s clothes looked as though they had come out of the requisites for a Hollywood movie playing in the past.
Parker looked up to the sign, announcing the Island’s distillery. The sign was old fashioned, made with simple paint, displaying a monk holding a wooden mug. Everything was different from the neon signs that blinked all over American cities.
Time seemed to have stopped here while the world on the other side of the sea surrounding the Island had moved on fast forward.
Monks were walking around in the city in their robes, mostly moving in pairs, talking quietly among themselves or talking to some citizens.
Parker shook her head and caught glimpses of the tour guide’s words… “For centuries, the Vespasian brothers have made this a place of refuge.”
She wondered if this was really a place of refuge when what she’d read in books over this place was true. This place wouldn’t really be the first she would go to if she was looking for refuge. If you were looking for nightmares and the truth about human kind, then this was definitely a good place to stop by.
Flames stood high in the sky when people became aware of what was happening. Means to extinguish the hungry waves of heat were primitive and no match against the delicate combination of kerosene, wind and wood.
“If you will now follow me to…”
This guide was boring. You could tell by his voice that he’d done this tour, said these exact words, at least a thousand times before and was as bored as she was.
Parker stole a glance at Jarod and then at Bobby.
Her brother was shuffling along, at least as bored as she was, if not more so, and Jarod was feigning interest - though with him, you could never tell.
“God, that moron will bore me to death,” Bobby groaned quietly. Parker chuckled softly; for once she had to agree with her brother.
“Let’s look around on our own,” she suggested after moving closer to her twin, making sure no one of the adults heard.
“Parker, that’s gonna get us into trouble,” Jarod argued, having picked up on her words - or maybe guessed what she was about to say.
“You’re a chicken,” Bobby muttered - and once more, she had to agree.
“’course you are,” Bobby needled further.
“Hush, you’re gonna give us away,” Parker hissed and reached for both boys’ upper arms, slowing their steps so they eventually walked at the end of the group. “Don’t tell me that weasel in front isn’t boring the hell out of you.”
Jarod looked torn between arguing and admitting that he was indeed bored.
“So, we off or what?” Bobby asked, looking a hell of a lot more adventurous and awake than he had only minutes ago.
“Yes, we are,” Parker nodded, closing her hand around Jarod’s jacket and pushing him into the alley they passed, hearing her twin follow.
“Our moms are going to have a fit,” he muttered softly but made no move to return to the group.
“Chicken,” Bobby hissed again while he carefully looked around the corner to make sure they hadn’t been spotted.
Parker pushed Jarod back when he was about to go for Bobby. “You’re gonna give us away,” she snapped, then tilted her head to the side. The alley was a dead end, but there was a small store, the door open.
She pushed past Jarod, leaving the boys to fight or tag along, curious as to what she would find down the alley. That didn’t look like a shop tourists would go to.
“Parker, what the--?” The rest of Bobby’s words ended in a muttered curse and a frustrated groan.
Ocees’ Herbal Remedies
The room was dark, little light falling inside, the interior dominated by dark wood, boards with drawers. An old woman was sitting in a chair, partly hidden in the dark, a mortar in her hands, obviously working. Parker watched her curiously, saw her still and tilt her head to the side.
“Come on in, seeker,” the old woman said in an accented voice.
Parker frowned and took half a step back before she collided with a body behind her. She looked up to see Jarod, eyes dark and curious, and she moved forward and into the room. She wasn’t afraid of anyone and she didn’t want the boys to think she was when she had taken a step back.
The woman turned to them and gave a small smile. “A trio of seekers,” she said softly, slowly nodding her head as if in silent contemplation. Her eyes were dull, vacant of awareness and light, yet she had a strange vibe of being alive around her.
“What do you mean by that?” Jarod asked slowly behind Parker. He had stepped into the room, nearly soundlessly following Parker inside.
“God, people, we didn’t plan on falling into a blind woman’s house to escape that boring idiot,” Bobby groaned quietly and Parker jerked her elbow back into his ribs.
“Shut up,” she muttered, watching the small smile on the old woman’s lips.
“Ah, ignorance of youth,” the woman said, nodding again and slowly standing from her chair.
Parker could practically hear Jarod shift behind her, knew he would wear that curious-confused expression and his head would be tilted to the side. She didn’t bother looking to prove herself correct, knew she was when he spoke and the tone of voice gave him away just as well. “We’re sorry to intrude on you like this.” His voice held a cautious tone and he couldn’t quite hide the confusion.
Bobby shifted behind her again and Parker delivered another jerk of her elbow to get him to be quiet.
“So you’re the older twin.” A statement, firm and assured of its correctness.
She heard matching gasps from both boys behind her, felt a shiver of wonder run through her. How could the blind woman know? Only a moment later, Jarod moved forward, pushing past her and coming to stand in front of her as though to shield her body with his. She hated this protective streak in him, didn’t need it.
“There’s no need to shield your friend, at least not from physical repercussions.” The small tilt of her head was back as she stood with her eyes closed.
Parker felt a frown settle on her features. “You sure you’re blind?” she asked before she could stop the question from falling from her lips.
“Sight may come from one’s eyes, but the visions come from one’s heart.” And still, the smile was on her lips, the words soft and gentle.
Parker shook her head, wondering what they had stumbled in on.
“You’re looking for answers behind the story.”
Again, it was a statement and not a question, making her feel strange somehow. “If there are answers behind the story,” Parker said challengingly.
“Your Grandmother would hold all the facts to that.”
Breathless silence settled in the room as neither of the trio truly understood what to make out of the old woman’s statement but the words gave away that there was more to find out.
Screams had died down while the flames were still raging through what had once been a two story cottage but was now little more than ruins, alight with fire.
The building collapsed into itself with a groan and sparks shooting into the sky. Everyone around took an involuntary step back. Stone still held a reddish glow, warning everyone against moving closer, a tiny gust of wind leaving the dark possibility of renewing the heated inferno.
They left the old woman’s shop much later - none of them would be able to recall how long they had been there, listening to the woman’s words and getting sucked into the story, that told of unspeakable happenings.
Few words were spoken when they went looking for the group they had left to listen to the woman’s tale, vivid and alive, making them shudder more than once.
They had missed the group’s stop at the ‘Chapel of Souls’, but were just in time to catch up with them on P-47.
The burnt ruins looked just as she’d imagined them and Parker felt as though she’d seen them before. Parker looked over to Bobby to look for a clue as to what was going on with her twin, finding his teeth clenched as he worked his jaw every now and then, clearly lost in the same memory the tale had evoked.
No wonder with that sight.
Fundament and the remains of wood were sticking out at grotesque angles, burnt beyond recognition.
A pair of eyes watched from afar as people stood around the ruins of what had once been home - before…
The figure scrambled away with a shake of head and vanished into the darkness.
The words were similar to those Ocee had used, but not half as powerful as the old woman’s, not half as vivid and once more she felt as though she had already seen this place through the old woman’s eyes.
The entrance into the room was not permitted, tourists being kept by the door out of the room but able to look inside.
“It’s the crypt room. It was built on the souls of the original monk warriors who brought the scrolls to this island and founded the order. Literally on their souls.”
The rest of the guide’s words got lost as she stared into the crypt room, the eight tombs building a circle around the one main tomb in the middle, stone solid and cold even from this place. The figures carved into the stone held the possibility of giving someone nightmares.
“They brought with them mystical scrolls of biblical proportions.”
She didn’t think it could really be called biblical, but it was definitely gruesome proportions, leading to the death of a whole family. All but one.
The rest of the night and the next day had been spent at a friend’s, someplace safe.
The travel to the mainland two days later had seemed longer than it ever had, hidden away on the back of the boat behind some boxes where no one would see or search.
They were all dead; burnt to death only because of those ancient Scrolls offering power and a dark glimpse of the future.
The truth about her family’s origin, their history and secrets had left her shivering. She now understood why her mother had wanted to come here.
It had left her shivering, the truth about her family, had made her see why her mother had wanted to come here. It was a trip to find out about their family’s origin, how everything had come to be this way.
Ocee’s words had been quiet but powerful, pulsing through the last corner and sweeping doubt away.
“A hundred years ago, the crypt keeper of this facility found the Vespasian Scrolls. It is said that he planned to leave Carthis with them and was therefore made to pay a devastating price for his bargain with the devil. That night, by his hand, his entire family burned to death in their cottage. All but one.
“His little angel escaped the fire as if by magic. She re-hid the Scrolls to save her father’s soul. He only found out when the cottage was in flames. To save the Scrolls, he returned to the house and died in the fire together with his family.
“Unbeknownst to the rest of the Islanders, Angel survived and two days later she fled the Island.”
Watching the harbor of New York City appear in front of the ship, the Statue of Freedom rising high into the sky, she hoped that no one would ever find the Scrolls again, wondered if she had done the right thing in hiding them or if she should have destroyed them.
They held a power so strong it was terrifying, a power no man should ever encounter again.
They were the last ones to leave the crypt. Her eyes lingered on the tombs for a long time before she looked at her twin and her friend. The story was still reverberating through her and she guessed it wasn’t different with the two boys standing next to her.
There was this strange sensation that in another place, another time, another life, things could have gone very differently. Somehow, she still felt that they would have ended up here at some time or another.
And from out of some hidden place, the power of the Scrolls kept calling out to possible seekers.
“The Centre shall rise…”
“Ever seen a skeleton?” Bobby asked with a smirk as he ducked under the rope preventing entrance, moving down the steps and into the crypt.