Rain pattered down against the windows of my old beaten up Volkswagen Beetle, assaulting the glass with heavy torrents of water reaching the beginning of its cycle. Outside to my right were the fields of Mason Park Cemetery, the now muddy green fields where my father was buried one hour earlier. It was a bittersweet feeling, knowing that he was gone. I can’t honestly say that I loved my father as a son should love his father because if he were here today he could not honestly say that he loved me as a father should love his son.
I sat in the driver’s seat, sulking as a man in mourning should, thinking about the past and with the future a mere hindsight. Now that I think about it, at that moment, the future was all that I had. My father did not reflect myself in appearance in the photo, the people who set up his funeral used his faculty photograph from Gwirion University, where he made a living as the head of the anthropology department. In the picture he was an upright figure with greying hair pulled neatly back into a tight bun. His glasses reflected the flash of the camera giving him a strange look in his blue eyes. As I sunk into my seat a little further a figure knocked on the passenger’s side window. I let the thuds of their hand rapping against the glass fade into the rain as I stared at the photo of Daniel glued hastily to a damp invitation.
Once again, however, the figure to my side knocked on the window with the persistence of a starfish working open a clam. I unlocked the door without giving him a look as he quickly opened the door and slid inside. I could feel his stormy, worrying eyes upon me as I stared into open space. While my father did not care much for me, his brother, Arthur, had taken me into his care for most of his life. He wore his age like a badge which made his resemblance to his brother uncanny. My uncle sat next to me dripping for a moment before he could find any words to say.
“I,” he paused “I cannot begin to imagine what you are feeling right now Simon.” There was another pause, and I flinched as he reached to put a hand on my shoulder. “That’s why you need to talk to me. Closing yourself off like this… It’s not healthy.” I looked up at the scratched ceiling of my car. I knew it wasn’t healthy to isolate myself, but it felt right, it felt good. “I know that these past few years with your father must have been hard…”
“It wasn’t the past few years Arthur, and you of all people should know that Daniel wasn’t my father,” I snapped my head around to look at his face. The look I saw upon it filled me with guilt and I found the floorboard in my gaze. “He was just the man I lived with.”
“He did his best to support you.”
“How?” I felt a small twinge of anger behind my words, though I didn’t entirely know who I was angry at. “He wasn’t supporting me, he was supporting his research.” I looked up past Arthur to see the grave where Daniel was buried. “I was just another expense to be paid.”
“The moment he got home from work he went right up to his study without even a passing glance. He did not love me, Arthur, I don’t think he could have loved anyone.” Silence fell on the last word, and all that could be heard was the rain for the longest time.
“He loved your mother,” Arthur said, almost in a whisper.
“Well look where that got her…” I said bitterly, then, realizing what I had said, looked at my uncle. The shock on his face tore me open, and he dove right in.
“Simon, believe it or not, everything that your father did he did for you, for her, with nothing but love in his heart,” he asserted. “He did love you,” Arthur reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a manila envelope. “and he left you everything.”
I sat silent, staring at the document. Why would he do that, I wondered as the sound of the rain began to fade outside. Where else would it have gone, I looked to Arthur.
“I won’t stay here and try to convince you that your father was a good man, but I won’t stand by as you let his memory, or at least, your perception of his memory, drag you down.” He opened the door as he was saying this. “You should stay in town for a little while longer until your inheritance is all sorted out. And if you want to talk about things…” His voice trailed off and a cloud of emotion filled the cabin of my vehicle. He rose out of the Bug, closed the door, crossed the rain-darkened street, and was gone.
~ ~ ~
As I stood at the gate of my father’s house, my house, I watched as the remnants of the showers dripped and plinked from the gutters. The muck-ridden canals were new to the Victorian era construct; they extended the slanting, shingled roof by a quarter foot and some were off-kilter with age. The house, however, stood upright and as dignified as its age. I laid a hand on the latch of the wrought iron gate that rose nearly a foot above my head and twisted it open. Behind me, I heard the fluttering of wings as the portal creaked open and I trudged through and up the short path to my former home’s threshold.
The door was tall, far above the standard height of any other home. According to the historians at the university, the family that had this place built brought it over with them from Germany. Some heirloom. I pushed the key into the top latch, and the click carried a foreboding tone. The whole of the house seemed to take a deep breath as I stepped across its threshold, and with it, I let out a deep breath that pushed dust motes across the foyer. I scanned the layout of the once-familiar room, now darkened and buried under books and scraps of loose paper covered in chicken scratch. Such is my inheritance.
In front of me were four paths: to my left, an arcing passage that led to the remnants of the dining room and kitchen, to my right was the parlor. Ahead was a hallway, long and dark, that lead to the back of the house, and halfway down the corridor was a staircase that went up the through the ceiling and turned to the right. Set into the side of the stairs was a door that led to the cellar. All of these locations while different in their orientations on the compass, all shared one thing: each room in the household was completely cluttered with stacks of books and old tomes, papers with my father’s notes and parchments with ancient texts, stone totems, and trinkets. These things held the house in their weight and made the structure bend under the weight of its own ancient spirit.
I was, at first, in shock at how my father’s obsession, his sickness, had spilled out into the rest of the house. In years before he would keep the house tidy for dinner parties with his fellow academics and scholars, parties where he would reveal his latest theories or discoveries within the realm of ancient anthropology. Behind his smiles and glasses of Bordeaux, he hid his madness. I considered him, in my youth to be a madman, bent on some secret discovery, some device that would grant him his heart’s desire. Somedays I believed that wish was to be rid of me.
I hung my coat on the banister and climbed the stairs to the second story of the house, all the while dodging past literary clutter. The upstairs corridor did not escape Daniel’s maelstrom of studies and artifacts. The materials sat in stacks; some almost reached my height. I followed the hall down towards his study, making sure to step lightly so none of the towers fell like Babel. The door to Daniel’s study was set to the left about halfway down the hall. The air in the old house was heavy and cold, and it cut through me like a knife as I stepped into the darkened room.
Of all the cluttered rooms and halls in the house, my father’s study had to have been the worst. Books and scrolls and loose parchments towered high above me towards the vaulted ceiling of the study. There was no order to the structures, they all stood like silent sentinels in their non-Euclidian forms. Directly across from the door was his desk, now my desk. It was a large mahogany, presidential workspace that spanned the niche where it rested. The surface of the desk, unlike the rest of the household, was clean. Even the dust which had layered itself across the artifacts of my father’s house seemed to steer clear of this space.
Upon the desk was a laptop computer, an old one by today’s standards, but not terribly so. I sat in the small wooden chair before the computer and flipped it open. There was no prompt for a password, only the desktop screen which, like the actual desktop, was clear save for two items; the recycling bin shortcut and a file entitled “For Simno”, I looked past the typo and opened the folder. Inside was a video file, “untitled3.wmv”, I opened it and turned on the computer’s speakers. The screen was dark for a moment as it considered the command, then the video began to play.
I didn’t immediately recognize Daniel as he sat down in the desk chair, the same one I was in. Watching him sitting there was like looking into some magical mirror, showing me the past. I leaned in. He was dirty, his shirt and face looked to be covered in soot. His glasses were cracked and his face was long and tired. For a moment he seemed to be staring at himself, almost in the midst of a revelation of something awful, something that scared him. He looked terrified.
“I don’t know how long I have before he wakes up,” Daniel whispered in a panicked voice. “Oh God, what have I done…” He buried his face in his hands as he said this, then realizing his limited time looked into the camera. “Simon, I want you to know that everything I have done I did for us. For her. I studied everything I could, searching for a way to make us whole again but in the end, I’ve only torn us further apart, and now I fear there can be no repair and no hope for this family.
“I needed your blood. You shared her blood, but there was something older in you, in us, and now…” The sound of a door somewhere in the house being closed rang out and Daniel turned towards the portal behind him. Looking back he muttered something. “Strong of mind, weak of will.” He then looked directly into the camera. “Listen, Simon, he won’t know how to access this so I have no fear of him finding this video but you must know,” he shuddered as a familiar voice called out from somewhere in the house. “Curwen Maynell lives. He has stolen a life so that he can continue his ungodly works among man, and it’s my fault. I’m sorry.” He reached into his coat and pulled out a large bottle of pills as the voice called out again.
I watched silently as my father filled his hand with the pills, then swallowed them, then he repeated the action. Someone had begun to bang on the door. On taxed breaths Daniel looked into the camera once more, his broken glasses fogged over and his scraggly cheeks were moist with tears. “I am so sorry Simon, but without me, he will come for you. You are young and healthy and he is old and broken. Do not trust…” The screen went black and I heard the exhaust fan wind down as a blinking light on the computer notified me that its battery was dead.
I looked into the once magical mirror which reflected my father in his final moments. Now it was dark, and I saw only my reflection. I stared into my own eyes as I asked a thousand silent questions. Then, over my reflections shoulder, I saw something. A dark silhouette against the glare of the machine, one that was not my own. Moving closer. Closing in.