by Lord Malinov
It started with a letter, sounding too good to be true. A distant cousin, last leaf on a withered branch of a decrepit family tree had died intestate and thereby bequeathed his worldly possessions to us, me and a second cousin, the last ones standing.
He had no debts and little cash either. What he did have was a very old house on a large piece of property in the north-northeast, where even summer feels like autumn and October is like a graveyard. A spooky house, probably haunted, sounded cool but the taxes meant we’d have to sell the property and enjoy whatever money we got.
The lawyers drew up the papers and while I could have just signed them, I decided to pay the property a visit before letting loose of my rights. She, my cousin, still lived in the area so she agreed to meet me there. I had the feeling that she didn’t trust me. The old house was bound to have some antiques.
All of the objects in the house belonged to us; taxes had to be paid but we didn’t have to sell everything. So, technically, I could take whatever I wanted out of the house. The only stipulation was that the value of what I took had to be determined and recorded. The executor demanded to be present as well. His ass was on the line if I stole anything. And I wasn’t going to steal anything.
After a long drive through beautiful country, I pulled up to the house, an old, spindly house of rotting wood and mossy stone. The windows were intact and the roof looked to be holding up, though long worn. Weeds had overgrown the surrounding yard and vines crept to the spires, covering entire sections of rock walls. I couldn’t wait to get inside.
As I took a few steps toward the dark house, I felt its presence looming above me, both pushing and pulling me toward the door. A crushing energy leapt out, the heat of flickering flames tearing instantaneously across my body, like a taste of lightning. I felt afraid but my feet kept moving forward.
I didn’t see her anywhere, my cousin, but suddenly she appeared beside me, startling me out of my fixation on the house’s energies. She shadowed me, slightly behind but beside me every step of the way. I couldn’t tell if she could feel the energy that was pulling me forward. Something made me silent about it. I reached the front door and opened it.
We probably should have waited for the executor but we went inside, her, my cousin, at my side, step by step. Mostly the house was full of trash, destined for the garbage dump. Some might be donated. A few pieces would probably do well at auction; objects d’ art, collectibles, cool gadgets, mirrors and woodwork.
I saw a few things I wouldn’t mind having, a few more that I liked, then a few pieces that I had to have; a statue, a table, a sword, some silver. All at once, I felt her energy, my cousin, as she began to covet things she saw, a manifestation of her greed, her desire, her need pushed at me and I stepped back. Her eyes seemed to glow with a whiteness that was wrong in the poorly lit room.
I tried to play it cool, let her know how much I didn’t care, not at all, not really but I’d be glad to take some of this trash off her hands, save them the bother of throwing it away and she smiled like she agreed and was willing to do her part and I thought dammit, she’s thinking the same thing I am and how can we resolve this if we both want the same thing. I wished the executor would get there.
Let me point out that while I call her cousin, it is only because we met as heirs. I’d never met her before and if we’re related at all, it’s very distant. We’re all cousins when it comes down to it.
The bedroom had been maintained better than the rest of the house. I’m sure this is where the old man actually spent his time. Every piece in the room was museum ready. Woodwork, metal work, art work, and antiques arranged so elegantly that the historical beauty seemed no impediment to living comfortably in the room. She, my cousin, sat down on the bed with a bounce, testing the firmness of the mattress with a heretofore uncharacteristic bit of playfulness. I almost liked her in that moment and then she got serious again.
I saw the box first, almost invisible on a dark dresser, a swirling hardwood container about the size of a large family bible, maybe large enough to hold dueling pistols. The wood had been carved intricately on every visible surface, through the subtle changes of deep brown colors to animate figures, dancing sensuously in the shadows of the etchings.
I read the word “Falconi” inscribed on top.
I moved toward the box, reached out my hand. Somehow, she, my cousin, was beside me, reaching out, following me to touch the wood; I said “mine” and she echoed “mine” as I began to raise the lid to reveal the mystery of what had been housed inside and a coldness moved through me followed by a warmth that seemed to emanate from the darkness within and I thought I might pass out. I fell back, leaned against the big bed. She, my cousin, leaned beside me.
I’m not sure I can describe what happened next. It was like drugs, really good drugs with floating and colors and visions and the strong feeling of being someone else. I was still me but I no longer felt like me, like a full immersion virtual reality. I felt my clothes change; I felt my body change; I felt arrogant, confident, self-possessed and handsome.
Then I looked over at her, my cousin, my cousin no more. She, my cousin, was pretty enough before, a fairly attractive woman, no, to be fair, she’s very attractive, maybe not quite my type but certainly fine.
Yet the before bore no relation to the after. Her, the phantasm, her beauty came from another world for she had become another woman entirely, no one I know but at the time I seemed to know her and know her well and what’s more, want her and want her badly. Lust at once gripped me.
I looked at her and saw the reflection of my hungry lust in her dark eyes. My gaze violated her as she assaulted me with a wanton glare. The space between us closed in an instant.
At this point, the phantasm that had possessed me, for that is what I believe happened to us, had complete control of my being. I could feel and see and experience but I was more like someone strapped into a rollercoaster than a participant in the sexual conflagration that followed.
The engaged in every kind of depravity I know and quite a few I had never considered either possible or erotic, although they proved to be both. They tested the limits of the old bed and it had a good bit of bounce left in its springs. I made love, fucked and carnaged this beautiful woman as only a man who knew her well could accomplish. I ravished, ate and impaled her, the fleshy ghost woman. She took everything I gave and gave me more than I could take. I exploded like a thousand suns in nova.
That was the moment, the last spasm, the final drop, that’s when the spell wore off. I knelt naked above my cousin who lay splayed out before me. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. It was quickly clear that neither did she. We jumped off the bed and searched for our clothes.
Once we were dressed, things seemed normal again. I felt strange but also at peace. I certainly didn’t mistrust my cousin any longer. She seemed warm, if understandably distant. All our tension was gone.
The executor appeared in the room unexpectedly. We hadn’t heard his approach.
“Here you are,” he said, nodding and smiling. “This room is full of treasures.
“Every piece belongs in a museum.”
“That’s what I tell them. I hope the auction does them justice. Now f there’s anything you want to keep, we’ll need to discuss it. If the two of you can agree, it’s just a matter of accounting. Otherwise, I’ll have to include it in the auction.”
“The box,” we both said simultaneously.
“Ah, you like that? Falconi’s box. They say it’s haunted. They say that about lots of stuff. Old Italian ghost stories.”
He reached for the lid. We both cried out. He lifted the lid. Everything happened again.