The Steampunk Empire

The Crossroads of the Aether

Mortuis Haeres Non Erit

Copyright 2011, =-Shadow Poet-=

 

    It was a frighteningly bleak time in the lives of the Sutherlands. It hadn't been more than 15 years since the family patriarch died at his old age and the inheritance had not been invested, not been saved or well managed. No, it had been squandered.
    "The old man... S***." Paul Sutherland said, as he spit into the fire, looking up to the portrait of his father, a stern, serious man with the look of a 1940s corporate raider. His hand-painted portrait, eyes fixed and mouth cheerless in a gentle scowl, a testament to his years of financial supremacy and willingness to survive in the world's cut-throat market. Holding his rounded glass of amber colored single-malt scotch, Paul mused, "It's been fifteen years. Fifteen years of bleak sadness and day-to-day tedium of this wasted wealth."
    "Yes, dear..." said his wife, Diane. She sat there in a chair, knitting yet again as she had done for years, merely taking the endless time she had been given.
    "He hadn't put anything away. No stocks, no bonds, just... a lump sum. At this point I'd say there's only about three million left," he said. A deep sigh and draw from his glass was all he could manage for response to his wife, to his own short-sightedness.
    Stephen, Kathrine, and Edmund Sutherland all holed up in their bedrooms. Stephen, obsessed with technology and new devices, was constantly on the internet. Being left five million dollars in his grandfather's will he did what many a youth wished they could do: buy the ultimate gaming system. His PC was among the most elite, his entertainment system couldn't be matched, and his popularity among everyone he knew at school was unquestioned. No, not because of who he was, but for what he had. His friends, all online, all gamers, all with something to offer him. "Aw man, that friggin' duck swallowed all of my pizzas!" he shouted before collapsing back into his beanbag chair, his video game ending as abruptly as it began. "I'm going to find a better game..." he said, as he went onto the internet once more, searching and scouring the web of infinitely available information for a new digitized shot of entertainment.
    Behind the second door in the cluster of three, Kathrine struck pose after pose in her full length body mirror, covered in the latest from Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, and Chanel. Her five million had gone to having the most beautiful clothing, makeup, and jewelery she could afford, her sum quickly petering down to around one million. All she'd had being used up and reflected upon her a physical image unparalleled, with Ojon shampoo and the finest Stila cosmetics. She would gladly tell the world how she felt being in such a lavish lifestyle, had she ever left the house.
    Behind the third door there sat Edmund. Edmund was a lonely boy. His father used to tell him that he was good for nothing because his other two older siblings never had problems adjusting to society the way he did. Sad, but persistent, Edmund spent most of his time studying things that aroused his interest from chemistry to physics to great works of literature,;Edmund always saw that he was a small part of this world. The highest he spent of his money was forty-eight dollars on a Chinese buffet trip for him, his friend Stacy, and their homeless friend Jimmy. Nothing special, really, but he simply didn't see the worth in buying what he couldn't use.
    "I need more scotch!" Paul screamed, smashing the empty bottle on the hearth. He had become drunk once more, sighing raggedly with full lungs at the sight of broken glass on the floor.
    "Mm hmm...", said his wife, so engrossed in her endless knitting she barely noticed the shattering glass bottle just ten feet away from her.
    Just then, the wind outside began to pick up, whipping through the air and beating against the house. This was a typical occurrence on the manor, being in the middle of a large tract of land surrounded by bare fields of lawn that had once been home to vegetables and tobacco. Like a specter, the shadow from outside crept under the door of the main room, cloaking the walls in an unseen shroud of darkness which went unnoticed to the man and his wife. As it swept through it touched the main carpet leading from the fireplace to the door and flicked the end like a whip. The roll in the carpet rolled higher and higher as it approached Paul Sutherland. Higher and higher with a soft billowing noise. At this noise Paul turned around and shrieked, the carpet lifting his feet up off the floor and sending him doubling back against the inner stone wall of the fireplace breaking his neck, the glass of scotch shattering against the stone above him and soaking his robe which quickly caught fire. As he lay there, skin blackening and robe charring, the smoke which billowed out the top of the chimney blanketed the night sky in a black shroud. His wife continued knitting, oblivious to what had occurred, but still responding to the shriek of her husband, "Yes dear..."
    Upstairs  Stephen was engrossed in his video games, leaning forward to turn on his new x-box game, relaxing back once more into his beanbag chair as the image of Bethesda Studios and Fallout 3 came up. "Ahhh, this better not suck like the second one," he mused quietly, reaching over to grab a sip of Mt. Dew Whiteout from his Master Chief collector glass. As the stage began a message suddenly blipped up onto the screen: "Please reconnect controller."
    "The hell?" Stephen asked quietly, leaning forward to look down at the end of the controller laying on the floor. As he cursed under his breath he leaned forward more to reach the controller plug and no sooner than he did the controller cord stood up in the air slowly like a serpent standing, much to the amazement of Stephen who watched on with a dumb-struck awe. Then, like a flash of lightning, the serpent struck, the cord wrapping tightly and quickly around the neck of the gamer geek like a many-looped snap bracelet. Eyes bulging out, mouth open, tongue extending violently from his mouth, the boy gagged with a wet medium-pitch gurgling sound as he tried desperately to remove the cord from around his neck, groping about the floor for his pocket-knife which was, unknown to him, buried beneath a stack of VHS tapes in the corner of his bedroom. As his retinas finally clouded and swelled to separation from the back of his eyes he struggled with his last grasp to reach out to any help, but to no avail as life slipped from him, the power-armored face of the Brotherhood of Steel paladin the only witness to the scene, face unobstructed by the error message, the plug of the controller now fully inserted into the input jack.
    Kathrine sat in her room looking at herself in the mirror once more. It had become a daily ritual for her as she applied more high-dollar makeup to her already caked visage. Such an empty person had been filled and revolutionized by the self-styled beauty of her own glorious talents with the brush. She sighed and said "If only there was more makeup, better makeup..." as she pouted, standing and dancing to her closet, flipping like pages through her collection of expensive custom made corsets. She settled on her secret favorite: a transparent over-bust PVC corset and matching clear plastic panties which showed every detail beneath them, leaving nothing hidden to the eye or available to the imagination. As she turned on her music and danced about her room she dragged a gold-thread interlaced scarf hanging among the many on her bed-post, holding it over her head to show her relatively well endowed body off to the world all within the solitude of her bedroom. Arms spreading, she went into a twirl and the scarf fluttered toward the floor. The moment the scarf touched the floor, it transfigured into a serpentine strip of silky fabric. Slither slither, it moved along the ground as the clear-clad girl twirled round and round. This twirling being her undoing as the serpent struck, the fabric moving between her ankles and swiftly binding her legs together, causing her to fall from her height, landing against the dresser, stabilizing herself with her hands on the side of the mirrored furniture.
    "What the hell?!" she shrieked, and no sooner than she opened her mouth, the bed canopy billowed sharply toward her, knocking her to the side and causing her to land upon her back with a loud, wet squishing noise, falling down upon a cup of eyeliner pencils, their sharp points penetrating the weak PVC of her corset. Her shock setting in, she didn't scream, she just looked bug-eyed at the pencil tips coming out of the front of her corset, legs paralyzed from the severing of her spinal cord. As she lay there, gasping for air, gasp for gasp, the red blood from her wounds seeped through the full underside of her corset, turning the once clear PVC into the exterior clear coat of a crimson red over-bust, blood trailing down her belly to pool beneath her panties as well, her sanguine modesty cloaking her from within.
    Hearing the thump and shriek next door, Edmund worriedly escaped from his room to check on his sister.
    "Sis? Hey, Kathy, you in there?" as he knocked on the door a couple of times. That is when he found her there, impaled through the torso by eyeliner pencils, her clear corset now stained red with her own blood. In terror Edmund stumbled back into the hallway, screaming, his eyes dilated and his body trembling. Quickly he scrambled next door to his brother's room and tried to open the door, like always it was locked, but in his fit of panic Edmund kicked the door in at the handle, door flying open.
    "STEVE! You have to come quick, Kather-" and her stopped abruptly, a sense of nausea overtaking him as he bucked back against the door post, the vision of his dead brother on the ground before him, tongue hanging out of his mouth and blood dripping from his eyes and nose.
    "This.. Can't... Be happening!" he stammered out, crawling like a mad dog out the room and scrambling to his feet, running down the corridor toward the main room, grabbing the stair post and swinging around, using it as a central point to turn, running down stairs.
    "MOM! DAD! YOU HAVE TO HELP, STEVE AND KATHY ARE DEAD!" as he fled down the stairs to find his father's lower body sticking from the fireplace, only a burnt spinal column protruding from his blackened and charred waist and lower legs, the clothing having long since burned away but the main flame only at the top. Looking over to his mother as his last vestige of hope, he found her sitting there in her wing-back motionless, the ends of one knitting needle sticking out of each eye, self inflicted it seemed, the knitted banner still attached to the needles hanging down and over her face spelling out in descending vertical letters "G R E E D."
    "Who could have done this?!" he thought before hearing a whisper behind him...
    "Edmund..." a voice said in a long drawn out tone, making the name take a good 4 seconds to fully pronounce. "Eeeeeeddmuuuuuunnd...."
    Desperately Edmund twirled round to find the source of the voice, looking up in all directions, finally stopping as his eyes rested upon the main wall above the front door, hearing a wet splotching sound as the walls began to bleed, forming letters above the door that looked as if they were smeared on by hand. The words read "Take what I have given you, son, and use it wisely. Or else!"
    With that, coals began to spark out of the fire place in all directions, flames taking hold of the carpet, tapestries, even the foreboding omen hanging from his late mother's face. He rushed upstairs to grab his laptop and his photo album, quickly running back downstairs and out of the house, pulling his cell phone from his pocket and dialing 911.

    The next day, the firefighters on the scene began to roll their hoses up as the burned out remains of the house stood like a skeletal remnant of a once powerful dinosaur. The fire chief walked over to Edmund who was sitting at the back of an EMS truck with a blanket around his shoulders, sipping a cup of water.
    "I'm, uh... I'm sorry kid. It seems like your dad maybe fell down drunk and set the carpet on fire best we can tell, whole place just... went up. If there's anything we can do for you, please, you can just let us know."
    "No, I... I'll be alright I guess," Edmund said with all the maturity and stability one might expect from a late-teen who just lost his entire family. "Did anything at all survive the fire?"
    "Well, a couple things... We found this fire-proof lock box here down in the cellar. I suppose it's yours now." Edmund opened the box to find stock certificates totaling just over forty billion dollars along with deeds to various stretches of land all over the world. Dumbfounded, he closed the box tight and stammered a bit.
    "W-What's the other thing?" he asked curiously. As the chief brought it over Edmund grew visibly pale. "I see. . . Thank you, sirs. Thanks for everything," he said with humility and an off-putting level of calmness. For he must remain calm and ever diligent in how he managed his life from here on out. He was under the watchful eye of his grandfather's portrait, eyes squinted and mouth smiling in silent immortal satisfaction.

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Tags: death, horror, short, story

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