“Pizza!” I announced, knocking on the thick doors of Beaufort Castle.
The locals called it a castle, and it was for sure the closest thing to a castle that you could have in New England. The old house had a circular room in its center for an attack by Indians, with portholes to fire guns through.
It had lay uninhabited for years, tended by the Miskatonic historical society, until that mysterious Mr. Renfield had purchased it.
The gothic mansion creeped most everyone else out, especially since Mr. Renfield had moved in. People said he had brought in coffins when he moved in. Halloween decorations, he told us, but some people suspected that these were unearthed from cemeteries. The epidemic of disappearing pets intensified after he arrived in town, or it seemed to.
The upshot of all this was that no other drivers would deliver there, but I had always been fascinated by Beaufort Castle, in part because my distant ancestor, Silas Beaufort had been its first owner. I loved to walk up its ancient wooden steps and wrap upon the snarling demon doorknocker.
I wasn’t really that fond of Mister Renfield though. He reminded me of a Skaven, and his manner was creepier than a discord admin’s, with the same hollow look of predation and malignancy of purpose. I felt deeply unsafe around him, as if the man wanted to harvest my brain and wire it to a death ray or something. But he paid promptly and tipped reasonably, so I had no real reason to complain.
This time, however, my rapping of the door knocker caused the door to move inward quietly. It was unlocked, and unlatched. I pushed in on the door slightly, and looked in hesitantly to see if an occupant was there.
Through the opening of the doors, I saw that the great entryway was lit by at least a hundred candles. They were all in varying stages of melting wax, creating great ‘icycles’ of white down the sides of the tables and shelves on which they rested. Even the grand staircase to the second floor was lined by them on its bannisters, wax dripping on the ornate gold and red rug which ran up the stairs.
In the exact center of the room, out of place, was an old timey telephone surrounded by candles and a note. I cautiously ventured to the table. There was only a five dollar bill here, not enough for the pizza. Squinting, I read the note, written in a flowing cursive:
The phone began to ring.
I picked up the receiver and held it to my ear. “H-hello?” I asked.
“Is this the pizza boy?” A voice which I guessed to be Renfield’s said.
I wanted to correct him, and say pizza man, but I was more interested in getting back to the restaurant for another delivery. “Yes,” I replied. I looked about. “How did you know I was here?”
“We have Ring installed,” Renfield replied. “Please bring the pizza up to the attic. Go up the stairs, take the hallway to the left, last door on the right. Up the flight of stairs there. Leave it on the table near the door.
I stared up through the tall ceiling, and towards the proximate location of the attic.
“I’m not really allowed to do that,” I said. “Safety risk, you understand. Drivers get robbed all the time. Just come down here and pay for the pizza.”
There was the clearing of a throat. “I know it is atypical, but there’s an extra ten dollars in it for you.”
“Might as well be a hundred. Tell you what, I’ll just leave it here, take this five, and you can settle with the shop later.”
“This is ridiculous,” the voice said, getting vexed. “I’m in the middle of something, and I can’t get away right now. That’s all. Come up here and leave the pizza on my desk.”
“I’m not going up there. I’ve played Alone in the Dark.”
A pause. “You played what?” He asked.
“You’re going to turn the house into some kind of warped hell-dimension where I have to fight low-polygon phantoms!” I shouted.
“Oh, for Christ’s- if we were going to molest you, we would have already hit you in the head with a bag of pennies by now.”
“We?” I asked. “Who is-”
I looked back down at the notepad, and gasped. The note had changed, the flowing cursive was different.
“You aren’t leaving.”
Behind me the door slammed shut, and turning, I saw the latch and bar move seemingly of their own accord. I shied away, not even testing them for fear that the spectre which moved them might be nearby.
“What is this?!” I shouted into the phone. “I-I only carry twenty dollars…”
“I told you: if we wanted to hurt you, we could. Now come upstairs.”
“All this for a pizza?” I asked.
“Just come up here.”
I heard a click.
Swallowing, I scanned the bottom floor. There were doors to various rooms, but these all seemed dark and foreboding. Opening any of them could lead to a tentacle monster.
I screwed up my courage, and walked back to the door outside. I tried the bolts and the latch. They held fast, as if rusted into their holds by decades of weather. The windows, too, seemed fused shut. I was stuck.
“Shit.” I said. Looking back at the note, I saw that it had changed yet again.
“Please come upstairs.”
I swallowed. “I’m not sure…” I said. Before my eyes, the ink crawled as if worms.
“I won’t hurt you. I swear it.”
Taking a deep breath, and aware that my knees were shaking, I ventured up the stairs to the second floor, the pizza clutched in my hands. I clung to the delusion that if I dropped the pizza off, I would be allowed to leave. Every creaking board and thud sent prickles up my neck. I felt as if I was being watched.
At the top step, I peered down the hallway on both sides. It was dark, and cold. I felt a breeze, as if it was not a hallway but a dense wood full of twisted trees and ominous shadows. In the blackness, shapes twisted and moved, and my eyes saw gleaming teeth in the darkness above the doorways.
I made my way down the hall, on creaking floorbkards, and opened the door at the end on my right. It opened upon dimly lit and unfinished wooden stairs. A scant candle in a windowsill provided just enough light to see my steps, until I reached a door. Bright light radiated from the cracks above and below, making the door seem otherworldly, and the light within unnatural.
I took a deep breath, and opened the door.
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