I choke while attempting to expel the air in my lungs, and immediately regret breathing. The stench in the hallway overwhelms me, and I gag. Bending double, my head and shoulders are thrust into the red mess. The weight presses me down and cuts off my precious supply of air. I feel like my lungs are on fire, and that I am going to die. I am at a loss; I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry at the irony of my present situation. Me, Layla Gazelle Marshella Slaughter, a certified Child of The Blood, meeting The Lady of the Eternal Night because I drowned in blood.
The pressure on my upper body is unbearable, and I curse the woman who cursed me into existence. I tell myself that I accept my fate. Perhaps with my demise, the line of tainted births and deaths will end. I close my eyes, and allow my legs to collapse under my weight.
My knees strike the hard, wooden floor first, followed closely by my elbows. The contact jars me, and I almost cry when I feel my teeth sink into my tongue. That is the moment I realize the absurdity of my dark thoughts. I am not going to die. Not tonight, anyway, I hope. I will not drown in blood.
Because there is no blood.
The hallway is clean and empty, and my bedroom door stands open, beckoning me to a night of peace and relaxation in my soft, comfy bed. I stifle my laughter, and question, not for the first time, my sanity. Either this house is insane, or I lost my mind long, long ago, with no hope of ever finding it again.
I really, really hope it’s option numero uno.
I manage to clamber to my feet and ease cautiously into my room. I flick the light switch upwards, bathing my room in bright, harsh light. I swivel my head in all directions, scanning and cataloging the contents of my sleeping chamber. Nothing seems to be out of place. My bed is in its usual disarrayed state. My pajamas are balled up on my pillow where I left them. The six books I’m currently reading are stacked neatly on the floor right next to where I lay my head. I sigh and catch myself thinking that maybe, just maybe, the house is done for the night and I can shower, drink, and sleep peacefully.
I come very close to convincing myself that I am a normal woman returning home after a normal day at work. I cross my room and slide open the door to my attached bathroom. I can already feel the soothing spray of hot water hitting me, washing the stress and grime down the drain to be carried away into the sewers to become the problem of someone else. I am so eager to greet the water that I pretend not to see the dark shapes slithering in the corners. I avoid looking at the mirror that never reflects my face. I turn on the light, giving the bathroom a soft glow, and I want to turn on the faucet, strip naked, and jump in. But I can’t.
Because there is a dead man hanging from the curtain rod. He waves at me, happily.
I react calmly and rationally. I shut off the light, back out of the room, and run for the open bottle I left in the kitchen. Something tells me that I’m going to need a significant increase in my collection of alcoholic beverages to make it through this vacation of mine.
In the kitchen, I gulp half the contents of the vodka bottle and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. My throat burns and my chest feels warm. I sink into a chair, and lean forward, letting my forehead kiss the table with a loud smack.
“Ganesh, High God, Blessed Buddha,” I pray aloud, “get me out of here. I have been cursed into existence by the The Cursed One. I carry the curse on my womb,” I said, slapping my belly with my free hand, “to be passed onto my heir. I ain’t havin’ no kids, so leave me alone!” I sit up, feeling wobbly and pleasantly light-headed; the alcohol seems to be doing its job. Feeling bold, I switch from praying to ranting at the house.
“And another thing, you vile, evil-inhabited thing! I hate blood. I hate dead people waving at me. I hate EVERYTHING!” I finish with fury. I pump my fist triumphantly into the air, happy that I am getting close to being drunk, and that I finally got my true feelings out into the open.
The house responds with a shudder. I feel the room tilt sideways as the walls begin to shake. My stomach churns, and I can feel the vodka threatening to rise. With a groan, I slip out of my chair and onto the rolling floor. It feels as though the earth is breaking apart, but I am quite certain that I am the only one experiencing this catastrophe; I always am. No one else sees the spirits, hears the whispered words, or feels the veil ripping. I am alone with my Blood.
With a roar, I smash the bottle against the floor. The liquid seeps through the boards, and the house spins in reluctant acceptance.
“Shut up, you stupid hunk of wood!” I am furious, dizzy, and warm. As the house settles down to absorb my offering, I close my eyes and hope that I do not dream.