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Chapter 49: Eerie
This auntie recalled those shiver-inducing midnight horrors during Halloween, which I, a movie geek watched with the lights out while quaking on a dark nooky corner. Call it dumbassery but I couldn’t help it. I loved it… until now.
The thing is… I just realized that it’s invariably eerie when murky darkness intertwined with the scent of rot, speak no more when the decaying aroma accumulates to prove its wretched point, wrapping an enclosed tiny room to oblivion. The rising stench immediately threw me off the bus as soon as I walked into Astolfo’s house. A cold tingle sprang from my spine as soon as my feet landed on the creaking floor. The same feeling when I watched those thrilling horrors, that something would pop out in the dark, you know, like those in B-rated horror movies. And damn, from the gooseflesh creeping on my arms, I knew that it’d turn uglier than I initially expected.
The twitchy sensation only grew deeper when Emma led me by hand inside the depths of the giant's house, to the room where the wife of the village head was. I had this foreboding that I have to prepare myself. The bristles on my arms jumped in attention. The oddness festered further when the old catkin’s swinging tail turned into the spoofy brush. Her kitty sixth sense kicking in without any warning to speak of.
Emma paused, halting her tracks before the eerie door. The old catkin’s feet refused to bulge, her face shifting hues and emotions. From rage to a deep solitude. She uttered no words, but a deep frown crept in, adding a shade on her visage. Her shoulders dropped, slumping along with her once straight gait. The old kitten seemed to have aged a few years all in a mere minute.
The old catkin released her grip from my wrist, hiding her sadness through a worn-out smile. “Lady Victoria, things have progressed faster than we thought. If my guess is right, the dark curse is already near its final stage. We are too late.”
“Final stage?” I tilted my head.
The old catkin chewed her lips, staring right to my soul with her keen eyes. Her silence meant a lot about what was currently unfolding behind the uncanny door. She and I knew that something bad had occurred.
“I…” I was cut-off.
A bubbly voice chimed behind my head, killing the tension that crept into this aunt’s nerves. “Oh, oh, I know this. I know this. Transforming into a bitch, uh, wrong... witch.” The tiny blob’s tone deflated after missing the mark, correcting herself after hearing the fist-sized blob harrumphed at her words.
“You’re spectacularly wrong pea head!” A snarky young master said.
“I am not!” The little green wind spirit who earned her new title as the ‘Tumultuous One’ butted in despite being tumultuously wrong. “I made a mistake because Dad kept calling them bitches. My dad was the wrong one, not me.”
“Tsk, hiding behind big daddy’s coat tail again.” The ‘Tempest’ retreated his snappish assaults, murmuring under his breath. “You lookin’ at? Want to try my gusty wind?”
“Um, you think I’m scared of you? Wanna fight? I’ll call my daddy.” Little Maggie harrumphed. I could imagine her raising her proverbial fist, inviting a slugfest while hiding behind the big boss. “Come on! Come on, fight me!”
The two wind spirit's childish verbal spar was cut off by my meddling. Teaching these two blobs about etiquette would be among my top priorities, they must learn how to read the mood in the future. Anyway, I didn’t say shut up or pulled out any threat. I just said I might be out of mana for at least ten years so deal with it. That thought stopped their childish battle behind the spiritual scene.
“She’s turning into a witch.” The old catkin let out a crestfallen sigh. “Hild...”
My heart lurched after seeing the old catkin’s head tilting downward, blaming herself for the lady’s condition. My eyes turned moist. I raised my hand, wishing to pet her… but I failed. She dodged it by spanking my itching claws.
“I thought I could help?” I choked as I rubbed my aching hand, hoping it wouldn’t swell too much later.
“According to the old records, there’s no going back once a dark curse reaches the final stages.” Emma shook her head. “I must confess, nothing’s going to stop it. Not even the best healer, spirit tamer, or priest in Madlands could do so.”
The old catkin shut her eyes, whilst her lips quivered, struggling to utter her next words.“We need to kill her before she turns into an undead. For Astolfo. Maybe, this is fate.”
Well, that went crazy nuts in an instant. I immediately asked the blobs if they could cure dark curses in their final stages. But what I got was little Maggie’s unsure answer, “Uh, uh, I could try.”
Uh-huh. That’s heartening.
Okay, this aunt hates tragedy’s in a real-life setting. Let that shit rot in those movies. This aunt ain’t having any of that. Tragedies. I had my own experience of that. Though I am not yet willing to share it with anyone. The real owner of this body also had her fair share… probably. Those things were out of my control, but not this one. I wish to help. Maybe she'll let me pet her once I save the village head's wife.
I’m not a saint. I closed my eyes. But for kitties, I might become one. The kitty saint. Not bad of a title. Really. If I think deeper for a better reason. Well, it’s because the conservative scarred village head and Emma had helped me. They saved me for at least 36 days of waiting. Took care of a lost aunt without asking for anything. Not too big of a reason but it was good enough for me.
The bubbling emotions crafted a few words, bursting out of my lips. “I want to try Emma,” I said. “Give me a chance to save her.”
“Let’s try,” I uttered in a resolute tone that I tended to use when new projects were raised in my old job. The inviolable one. “We’re not going to lose anything.”
The old catkin turned silent for a moment, but soon gritted her teeth, and nodded. “We do not have much time. I’d wish we had an anti-miasma ritual but Astolfo is still out. So please brace yourself. The miasma will be very strong. If you feel like you're hallucinating, just shout so that I could immediately help.”
“P-Please…” She grasped my hands, holding them tightly. “...save her.”
I simply clasped her hands back, not uttering any promises. A wry smile slid out. I wanted to tell her that I will, but those words got stuck in my throat. I was uncertain. Do doctors also feel the same way when they handle those critical patients? The weight of one’s life was nothing to scoff at indeed. No wonder my dad, a doctor, told me to not get a doctor’s degree when I asked him if it’s a good job. Though fame and pay accompany it, one would also need to put their conscience and faith on the line.
I remembered his goofy last words for me. ‘Leonara, dear, don’t marry a doctor.’
Anyway, I gave the two blobs a heads up through the link, asking if they could fight off the thing called ‘miasma’. Unfortunately, their answers were negative. Alistair’s forte was destruction. While little Maggie’s ability was still up in the air until recover 100%. However, it doesn’t mean that the miasma affects them.
I also asked Maggie to describe her new abilities. Unfortunately, the way she explained it assured me that no aunt would be able to understand any of that shit. What do swissh, zzoong, and tatatan mean is still a mystery to me. Anyway, it’s time. I took a deep breath and nodded towards the old catkin.
A crimson-hued mist slowly built its ways around Emma. The old catkin’s pupils had once again turned into blood rubies. She turned into a killer cat instead of a doctor cat in a flutter of an eye.
“We’re going.” The old catkin said as she held the door. “Prepare yourself.”
I knew that it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, we still had underestimated it. The moment I saw the veins of old catkin’s hands bulging. I knew I was dead wrong. Beads of sweat trickled on her brows as she pried the door open. Someone was stopping her from the other side of the door. The crimson hue surrounding the old catkin grew shade deeper.
Slowly it began to creak akin to a heavy metal door despite being a light wooden one. Soon, an opening had finally been unrolled.
“Enter now!” The old catkin said as she wrestled with the boss-level door. “It’s the miasma. I’ll keep it open and assist you when something happens. Just shout.” I held my chest and marched forwards. Though not before asking the two blobs to pull me away if I mess up. It's not that I don't trust Emma, rather I don't trust myself much.
The darkroom seemed offbeat. There was a heavy sense of oppression in the air, rejecting my meager existence within the room. I'm not quite welcome.
Eaten by malevolent darkness, any flickers of light turned dim. The light emanating from outside the door kept reaching, but the dark walls kept shrinking away. I never believed in ghosts aside from those in the movies, but this experience affirmed my conviction that in this world, they’re real. I mean, I already saw an undead. The white spirit that once came out of the zombie Eyad had burned when they saved me might also be one.
I looked and felt the existence of the stacking curse creeping in the shadows. The obscurations in the walls stretched, twisting space to its wishes. The curse was alive. The shifting shadows halted my feet, stopping me from pushing forward the creaky bed. Though I only needed another single turn to see the place where the village head’s wife lies, each step felt like years.
The smudgy feeling increased the nearer I got. I huffed, keeping myself from throwing up. The revolting stench offered no room for my guts. My stomach recoiled as the food I ate rolled mach-speed.
Murky. Dirty. Evil.
The endless darkness fed a few of my not-so-welcomed emotions of fear and helplessness. Nevertheless, I still trudged, keeping hold of the promise I gave. Though it almost took an eternity, I finally reached my destination. I also got used to the dark. I peeped at the creaky bed where the village head’s wife laid… she was not there.
“This feeling, ugh.“ My teeth chattered involuntarily. I flinched, wondering if my eyes had only tricked me. So I peered again. Found her. She wasn’t sleeping on the bed. Hanging upside down with her two feet on the ceiling, she defied gravity as I knew it. She had her entire body covered with bloody scars, blood trickling onto her bed. She stared at me with both curiosity and… fear?
The monster wore a warry leer that would humble the good ol’ old joker to shame. A little more and the sides of her mouth would surely rip. The lady tilted her head and looked at me like she had found a new plaything. Bloody macaroni! This was not some movie, and the thing was… she had set her eyes on me.
I unconsciously hyperventilated, grabbing around, forgetting that I had no bean bag around. Goosebumps slithered, stunning this aunt. I held my scream. No, I couldn’t even scream. My voice locked up at my throat. Who wouldn't?
I blanched far worse than the unexplainable entity before me. And I was like fuck… Emily is that you?!