The door creaked open. The screeching of rusted metal hinges and the sound like a tortured cry.
A large room that was slowly revealed from the shadows on the other side. My eyes taking time to adjust to the light of a fire that was flickering at the centre of a hearth that was placed against one wall.
I turned my face slowly from left to right and peered out towards the darkness where the light of the flames barely reached. The walls that were revealed and illuminated by the fire’s flames on five sides. The memory of the room I had spied upon the top of the tower with the crown of steel spikes.
I lifted my face to the ceiling and could see a ring of steel rods that were protruding through the ceiling and lining the edges of the wall. A circle of barbed rods that ran a course around the tops of our heads. And each rod that was charged with static currents of electricity from the storm that continued to rage outside. The smell of sulphur upon the air as sparks of electricity appeared to jump from rod to rod and around and around and around. The crackle of electricity on the air. Every hair that was standing on end against my arms. The air that was charged.
Another cannon of thunder outside and the thought that the tower must have been consumed by the darkest of storm clouds. I lowered my face from the ceiling and allowed my gaze to travel out and across the room so that my eyes came to rest upon the windows that looked out from each of the five walls. The darkness of the world outside. And then a sudden flash of lightning that cut a ragged scar against the sky and appeared to cleave the world in two.
The endless forest of trees that was revealed out there.
A crack of thunder that exploded against the tower so that the whole of the tower seemed to shake against its foundations, and I fell to the ground to steady myself. Ariana that was crouching beside me as we cowered beneath the explosion of sound that reverberated against the walls. Until finally the foundations of the tower began to settle. Cautiously I lifted my face from the crook of my arms and peered out upon the room once more that had been revealed upon the top of the tower. And it was only then, that my gaze finally came to rest upon the image of a figure that had been standing the whole time at the centre of the room. A person who had remained motionless and shrouded in shadow and standing upon a metal disc of silver. The silver disc that appeared to be illuminated a neon blue in colour and flickered and shimmered beneath the persons boots.
Slowly, I lifted my gaze up from the persons feet and along their legs and past their thick cotton dress that hung about their knees and past their waist and their chest and their shoulders until finally my eyes came to rest upon the persons face. And the mask that had been removed. The persons soul that had been revealed at last.
“Welcome. Children.” Sister Dixon said, lifting an arm towards the two of us and beckoning for us to enter the pentagonal room that was perched upon the tower like a crow’s nest. “Please, come. Join me for a while.” She said.
The two of us that remained standing hesitantly upon the threshold of the room for a moment. The iron door that remained open behind us and escape. And I reckoned that I still had time to grab hold of Ariana and pull her from this place and scarper back down the stairs and away from here. To risk our fortune with the beast out there. But Sister Dixon must have read my mind I reckoned. Because before I could turn and run, a bolt of lightning suddenly crackled up through Sister Dixon’s boots and through her legs and arms and out of her fingers and out towards the two of us so that we were forced to dive for cover towards the floor and away from the iron door.
My ears ringing from the lightning strike. Every hair that was standing upon end against my skin.
Slowly I spun my head towards the direction of Sister Dixon where she remained standing upon the silver disc at the centre of the room. Her left arm that was lifted out towards the two of us and her fingers that remained pointing towards the door. Wisps of blue smoke that were lifting from the edges of her fingertips. The smell of sulphur upon the air. Around our heads I noticed that the crackling steel rods were glowing a dull blue in colour as though the electricity had been all used up.
My gaze that returned once more upon Sister Dixon who remained standing at the centre of the room upon the silver disc. An expression that was revealed against her face that I had not seen there before. The mask that had fallen. The evil that creased against her beautiful features and had turned them in to something grotesque.
“Please come, enter.” She said, “Don’t be scared.” She continued. “It will all be over soon.”
And, as though the two of us had been hypnotised by her words once more, we both placed a foot before the other and edged a little further towards the centre of the room and away from the iron door. A wide smile that lifted the corners of Sister Dixons cruel face. Her eyes that appeared to glow with some hidden energy.
“Good, that’s good.” She said, as we placed one cautious step forwards and then another.
I turned briefly towards Ariana and could see the fear that danced upon her eyes and the thought occurred to me that the girl was as petrified as I was.
“Ah, just look at the two of you.” Sister Dixon said as I reached my hand down towards Ariana’s and my fingers that pressed down against hers as our fingers intertwined. The warmth of her hand against mine. “Together at last.” Sister Dixon said, “So sweet.” She said, and the strangest timbre to her voice I thought, like a doting Mother might sound as she waved her children off to school.
“What’s going on?” I asked, finding my courage at last to speak and shifting my gaze from Sister Dixon briefly and out across the room and towards the windows that encircled the space. The darkness of the world beyond. And Deadwood out there. Not seen. But the weight of it that pressed in against the tower somehow. As though the tower had sprouted up through the earth like the pine trees that grew thick down there. “What is this place?” I said, and I reckoned I should have been asking Sister Dixon how the heck she had managed to shoot electricity from the ends of her fingers, but I reckoned there’d been time enough to talk about that before the night was done. “What is this place?” I asked.
Sister Dixon laughing. The strangest sound. A rattling cry that repeated against the walls and seemed to spin around and around until the sound was swallowed by the night.
“This is Darkness!” Sister Dixon cried, lifting her face briefly towards the patch of ceiling above her head and the silver disk that glowed a dull blue light above her. The strands of copper hair lifting from her shoulders and dancing upon hidden currents of electricity. “This place is glorious darkness!” She announced, lowering her face from the silver disc that flickered and crackled above her head and her gaze that settled for a moment upon Ariana and then turning to me. A cruel smile that lifted against the corners of her lips and the teeth that were revealed that had remained hidden away for so long.
“What are you talking about?” I asked, “You sound as crazy as the rest of them in here.”
“No.” Sister Dixon replied, and her eyes that were narrow and her pupils that were dilated and appearing like malevolent spirits against either eye. “I am quite sane Mandy.” She said as she fixed her cruel gaze upon mine.
Ariana pulling at my hand. Her nails that were clawing and pinching against my skin so that I turned to her. The fear that was racing against her pulse that flickered against her neck.
“We need to get out of here.” Ariana said, her voice, so pitiful and lost. “It’s not safe Mandy. We need to go.” She said.
The laughter that was heard once more from the centre of the room and Sister Dixon’s voice that called out to us and mocking us somehow.
“Oh, I bet you do need to go sweet girl.” She said, “I very much suspect that you would rather be anywhere else but here.” She said.
And that was when my blood really began to boil and the anger that began to bubble against the insides of my gut. I let go of Ariana’s hand and placed a step towards the centre of the room and the spot where Sister Dixon continued to stand impassive upon the silver disc.
“What is wrong with you?” I asked. I demanded. “What have we ever done to you?” I said, and my fingers that were curling into balls of anger and the rage that was bubbling within my tummy. “What did any of us ever do to you? To deserve to die in here?” I said. “Rag n Bone and Taylor and the rest of them.” I demanded.
And that was when Sister Dixon seemed to lose it completely as she turned towards Ariana and then back.
“Me?” She said, “Is that what you think you! You stupid child? Is that what you really think? That the darkness that resides in Deadwood could ever be down to me? You stupid girl!” She said, and that made me angry, real angry.
“Don’t call me stupid!” I shouted back.
Sister Dixon shaking her head from left to right.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid!” She cried with spite. “Have you not learned a single thing in here yet you stupid girl? Are you really that dumb?”
And I shook my head and my fingernails that pinched down against my hands as I placed another step towards the demented woman.
“What are you talking about?” I cried. My skin that was crackling and itching all over and the sense that something twisted and turned within my gut. “It’s you. The madness here. The children who’ve been murdered. All of them by you.”
Sister Dixon shaking her head and laughing and turning once more towards Ariana and then back to me and then back to Ariana.
“I have only been a conduit.” She said, “That’s all I could ever be.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, glancing briefly towards Ariana and noticing how the girl had lifted herself from the floor and was standing beside the iron door that remained open still. “What do you mean conduit?” I asked.
And Sister Dixon laughing. That strange rattling sound that repeated over and over and her eyes that were wide. A dull glow that illuminated them from the insides out somehow.
“Deadwood!” She cried aloud, and the electricity that sparkled and crackled around and around the steel rods above our heads. The lightening that sliced another ragged scar against the darkness beyond the windows and the endless banks of trees that were revealed out there. “Deadwood called to me.” She said.
Her eyes that were wide and her hands that were shaking as she slowly brought them towards the sides of her face so that the tips of her fingers came to rest upon her skin. Her lips that continued to move and the words of madness that rolled over her mouth as she began to rub against her face and the folds of skin.
“This place is darkness you see.” She said, “it has always been.”
“Let’s get out of here Mandy.” Ariana cried, squeezing against my hand. “Let’s go.”
But Sister Dixon still calling out and rubbing and kneading at her face with the palms of her hand and her fingers.
“The darkness that resides in Deadwood. From the beginnings of time, I think. And the pain and the horrors that this land has seen. The battles that have been waged. The blood that has been spilled upon these lands and the earth that soaked it up. It called to me. It calls to everyone with darkness in their hearts.” She said, creasing her fingers against the folds of her skin where her cheek bone met the hollow and kneading the flesh.
“The wasted decades I endured away from here being something I was not.” She said as she rubbed in circling motions against her skin and slowly, I noticed that the makeup that she wore began to rub away and something else that was revealed beneath the makeup and had remained hidden. My eyes widening as swirling images were revealed against her skin. “Of being someone devout.” She said. “Of being someone good.”
She laughed. And turned her face towards the silver disc that flickered above her head.
“But Deadwood showed me the truth.” She said, and the madness that was contorted against her face as she rubbed with manic stokes against her cheeks and her chin and her forehead. And bit by bit, thick layers of foundation and makeup that were rubbed away to reveal the hidden skin beneath.
And the sight that was revealed.
I blinked at the terror.
Tattoo’s that had been inked against every inch of her face. Strange symbols that had remained concealed beneath the terracotta foundation. A five-pointed star. An inverted image of three sixes. A Swastika. Scrawling letters of a foreign language that I couldn’t begin to understand. A demon face.
“It released me. The darkness here. Deadwood. And the games I could play in here now that I was free.” She said. “My own playground.” She continued. “And not a single word of your protests that would ever be believed out there.” She said. “Your words of madness.”
“You’re insane.” I said, my gaze that remained fixed upon the woman. “You’re insane.”
Sister Dixon’s gaze that shifted briefly towards Ariana where she had remained hesitating beside the iron door. And then something that changed against Sister Dixons cool composure. An anger. A rage that creased against her features. She brought her hand up towards her throat and pressed her fingers against the folds of her neck as she turned to me and then back to Ariana. And when she spoke, the words that were barely heard above the sound of hissing bursts of breath.
“But then you began dying, each of you. One by one.” She said, and a rage that rattled against her voice and over her lips but a smile that was stretched thin and her teeth that were showing and were pointed and cruel. “And it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair! Because I was having so much fun. So much fun with you in here alone and just for me. And the horrors I had planned in here. For each of you. Oh, the glorious darkness that would be mine. And it wasn’t fair that you were dying. It wasn’t fair.” She cried.
“What are you talking about?” I asked. “It was you! You were the one that was killing my friends. Murdering them.”
The memory of Rag ‘n’ Bone with the biscuits that had been forced down his gullet. Taylor being chased through the cemetery yard. Bieber being spooked in the woodshed. Zayne being hung up by his tongue. It had been Sister Dixon all along. The murderer in the shadows.
Sister Dixon’s eyes that were wide and the madness to her face and madness to her words.
“No. Not me. But I had to know, you see, I had to know who it might be. If the lord had returned. I had to know if he walked with darkness once more.”
“What are you talking about?” I said, shaking my head from left to right. The images of my dead friends dancing before my eyes. Rag n Bone. Taylor. Bieber. Eminem. Zayne. And all of them had been killed by the hands of Sister Dixon.
Sister Dixon’s eyes that were fixed upon mine and the blue light that danced behind them as she scrutinised me.
“What Lord?” I asked, I demanded.
Sister Dixon lifted her face from mine and peered out across my shoulder.
“Tell her!” She said as she fixed her gaze upon Ariana. “Tell her!” she cried.
I turned around and studied Ariana and Ariana studied me back.
The door that remained open to the side of Ariane and Ariana’s hand that remained fixed against the side. The look of fear against Ariana’s face that appeared to dissolve away to reveal another person standing there. And I watched as Ariana blinked and the light that seemed to wash away from the brightness of her eyes somehow. The darkness of her eyes that was revealed as she leaned to her side and pushed against the iron door. The door that slammed shut with a thunderclap of sound. Ariana walking towards me and her hand that moved slowly from where it had briefly settled behind her back before bringing it before her. A carving knife that was revealed held against her hand. The knife that had been used to kill Eminem back there in the kitchen. She must have hidden it upon her and brought it with her.
“The Lord of Deadwood.” Ariana said. Her eyes that were dark and fixed upon me.
The kitchen knife that was lifted before her and the light that flickered against the blade’s cruel edges.
“The Devil.” She said.