Gracie tries to save her daddy and little brother but some rescues are destined to fail.
|The closet door shuddered, the wood crackling and snapping with the pressure of the heavy blows. Gracie hugged her little brother’s trembling frame to her side. They used one of Daddy’s ties to knot the door knob to the closet rack to prevent it from turning, but it wasn’t going to be enough.|
He was going to get in and she couldn’t stop him.
A crack splintered down the top panel. Markus screamed, covering his ears and squeezing his eyes shut. Tears poured down her cheeks when she gripped him tighter. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen.
Three weeks earlier, Daddy arrived home from the museum with a leather bound book. Beautiful engravings and gold inlay decorated the ancient tomey, capturing Gracie’s attention right from the start. She only caught a glimpse of it as he stepped into his office. When he saw her eyes focused on it, he shut the door and turned the lock.
The door remained locked with her father only emerging a couple times a day. He didn’t speak to either of his children or to their nanny, but he did stop on his way to the kitchen or bathroom to stroke the portrait of his late wife.
Gracie haunted his office door, trying to engage him when he opened it, but he didn’t so much as look at her when he passed. Dark bags formed under his bloodshot eyes, his cheeks hollowed, and his hair grayed. Whatever he did in the dark confines of his office took its toll upon him.
“Daddy,” she said, snagging his hand as he walked by.
He stopped and looked down at her small limb as if it were a bug. His eyes narrowed and he made a movement as if he were trying to shake her off. As he squatted down in front of her, he squeezed her hand tighter.
“I’m sorry, my little one,” he said and planted a kiss on her forehead. “I know I’m a little focused right now, but I promise it is for all of us.”
“Daddy, what is the book?”
A nerve in his jaw twitched before he rose to his feet. Still holding onto her hand, he led her to the office door. He unlocked the heavy door and turned to look at her once more. His eyes filled with sadness and a dark sense of foreboding filled her.
He turned and led her into the office. Like when her mother lived, the walls were lined with books and odd specimens in jars and on pedestals.
His desk, usually kept in perfect order, hid beneath chaos. Paper and books piled up in a half circle around the leather book.
“Daddy,” she repeated, “What is the book?”
He squatted before her again. “Gracie, I think it will bring back Mommy.”
“But it’s just a book.” Something about his tone scared her and she grabbed his hand with her other, squeezing it tight.
“No, baby girl. It is much more than a book.Do you know what necromancy is?”
She shook her head and he patted it. “That’s okay. It’s magic that will bring your mother back.”
“But Daddy,” Hope mingled with fear.
“I will figure it out, princess. I promise.” He smoothed the hair from her forehead and planted a kiss before spinning her back to the door. “Now, quit worrying about me. Go play with Markus.”
She trudged out, glancing over her shoulder at her father still squatting. Though she could find a glimpse of her old father in the deep wrinkles, she felt as if she’d lost him forever. A shiver of dread danced down her spine. She resisted the urge to run back and throw herself in his arms.
A few nights later, she wished she had.
Curled up in her bed, lost in dreams of her mother dying from cancer while smiling at her, she woke to her father shaking her.
“Gracie, I need you to come with me.”
Her eyes blinked with sleep, she didn’t quite understand. He tucked his arms beneath her and scooped her up. Still confused, she leaned her head against his thin shoulder. A sour, unwashed odor rolled off him.
“What are we doing?” Sleepiness slurred her words.
Her father didn’t answer but rubbed her shoulder. He carried her down the dark hallway and into his office. Incense sticks burned in the corners, making her eyes water.
He set her on the overstuffed chair in the corner then moved to his desk. Moving with purpose, he lit three black candles and turned off the lamps. When he lifted a knife, Gracie shrank against the chair.
“Daddy, you’re scaring me,” she said.
“I need you to bear witness, sweetie.”
Not waiting for her response or understanding, he began chanting in a weird language she couldn’tt understand. His tongue seemed to trip over itself and make strange clicking noises. The smoke from the candles and incense mingled into a gray cloud. The shifting swirl danced and moved until it appeared to have a life of its own.
The volume of his incantation dropped so even if she could have understood him, she couldn’t hear him anymore. The smoke contorted and snaked through the air, suddenly shooting into her father’s open mouth and nose. He arched and dropped to his knees, still uttering the incomprehensible language.
Gracie screamed. He ignored her, lifting the knife high into the air.
Understanding struck. A desperate plea burst out of her, “Daddy, no!” She leaped out of the chair, dashed to his side, and grabbed at his arm.
She couldn’t stop him.
The knife drove into his chest, spraying her with a warm mist of blood. His body slumped against her and she tumbled under his weight. His dark spell lapsed into silence, replaced by dripping blood and the crackling of the candle flames.
Being careful not to let him fall, she wiggled out from under his body and laid him on the floor. Sobs exploded out of her. She pressed her face into his gaunt back.
He twitched and jerked like a puppet. Covering her mouth with both hands, she fell back
A low groan rumbled from him and he pushed off the ground until he was on hands and knees. He coughed. A long string of bloody drool dribbled out of his mouth. She gasped, pulling his focus to her.
When his eyes met hers, she felt a coil of terror build in her stomach. Dark gray smoke shifted in the depths of pure black. He wasn’t her father anymore.
“Your turn,” he grinned.
Not waiting for him move, she sprang up. Still adjusting to his change, he dragged himself off the ground, giving her the chance to flee.
Which was how she ended up in the closet with Markus, hiding in fear of their father. The wood splintered under his fists, giving way until he could reach through and disconnect the tie. When Markus got a good look at their father’s bloody features and his scary eyes, his sobs dried up into open-mouthed terror.
The thing wearing their father’s skin yanked the door open and the two siblings shrank against the back wall, clutching at each other. He pulled the knife out of his chest and began to utter the horrifying words. Smoke trickled in from the hallway, coiling in the air around her father.
“Run Markus, get out of the house,” she shouted and threw herself into her father’s legs.
They fell to the ground. Her little brother scrambled out of the closet. Her father grabbed a handful of her hair and pinned her to the ground beneath him. The words poured out of him, dark and frightening, weaving a web of despair around her heart.
“Daddy, please don’t do this,” she cried out.
The smoke twisted and she closed her mouth, trying not to even take one breath. But as soon as she did, the gray matter seared her lungs. Sharp pain lanced through her limbs and she went limp beneath her father.
The words filled her ears, swelled in her heart, ate away at everything that was her. As emptiness devoured her, the knife rose into the air once more. Gracie didn’t fight him when it swung down.
When the emptiness awoke, it helped Daddy begin the hunt for Markus.