30 Mar Guests
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Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
When Adam had been much younger, he had gotten lost on a walk through the woods. He had become separated from his parents and wandered into an abandoned church. It was an Autumn afternoon, the leaves had curled up into claws, and the darkness waited to drape itself completely over the last shreds of the day.
Adam was always an absent child and he hadn’t noticed that he was lost and alone until he entered that dark church. The dying embers of light struggled to break through the cracked stained glass windows. Adam had stopped then. Alone in the doorway. He became aware of the staccato nature of his breathing and tried to match his breath to the faraway ticking of a clock. He was never sure if the clock ticked only in his head.
Strange faces stared down at him from the walls. Adam did not yet truly know of pain or anguish but he would soon enough. For an adult, a painted face holds no mystery. A portrait never moves. That noise in the dark is always waved away with a nervous laugh. A child can’t afford such nonchalance. The vague notion of an unexplained evil festers in every corner and behind every doorway. Adam didn’t know why the faces scared him but he knew that he was right to be fearful.
He had attended church many times in his short life but this was different. The absence of other people brought the surroundings into sharp focus. The impending darkness added a strange spotlight of its own, with only the eyes really visible beneath the lurking shadows.
Adam had looked behind him and taken a small step forward. He knew this to be the wrong thing to do but he was drawn further into that Godless building by powers over which he had no control. As his young eyes adjusted to the oppressive gloom he became aware that he was not alone. A man kneeled at the front of the altar, with his face turned away from Adam. The man wore a tattered priests robe that gave him a medieval ancientness. The lost child couldn’t see the fallen priests face but he knew that he was very old. Perhaps as old as God himself.
Adam heard his Dad calling him in a frantic, faraway voice. He snapped out of a paralysis that he hadn’t realized he was trapped in. A small yelp climbed up Adam’s throat and barely escaped from his lips. The dark priest sat up, an ancient wolf cloaked in evil. He turned his head sharply to look at Adam.
‘Good evening’ the priest croaked.
The boy stared in open mouthed horror. His blood plunged to freezing cold levels as his heart played a demented beat in his chest. ‘oh my God!’ Adam screamed, out loud or in his head, ‘Look at its eyes!’.
The party had been Adam’s idea. He had never liked solitude, ever since being a child. Sarah had laughed at the notion of a housewarming, 6 months into their residency, but Adam had persevered anyway.
The room seemed to become smaller when the man walked in. Sarah explained that he was new to the neighborhood, had heard the music and had asked if he could join the party. Adam was initially a little annoyed but he soon succumbed to the party and eventually almost forgot about the uninvited guest. He saw him in glimpses, a face between branches. Adam did not recognize the man but something about him felt familiar. He was perhaps a little older than Adam but he had the same hair colour and the same height . Like a funhouse mirror version of myself, Adam mused.
Sociable and loyal, Adam had few friends but the ones he did have, he cared for deeply. For this reason he never felt the need to try to endear himself to strangers. Certainly not to this intruder. He heard snippets of conversation from him however and was surprised to hear that he was an architect, as Adam was himself.
The party gradually died down, the way these things do. When the first couple left, the rest of the guests dutifully started to leave in dribs and drabs, lemmings off to the next cliff face. Sarah had taken her younger sister home in her car and Adam was reluctantly starting to tidy the blood and guts of the party away, when he became aware there was only him and the guest left in the room.
‘So you’re an architect as well I hear?’ asked Adam, extending his right hand. ‘Well, my name is Adam, you have met my wife Sarah, did you enjoy the party?’ he continued, trying to sound interested and somewhat failing.
‘I did. Thank you. I’m Adam as well!’ the guest smiled, returning Adam’s handshake with a robust squeeze.
‘You live alone?’ Adam shouted over his shoulder whilst carrying plates over to the sink.
‘No. My wife isn’t joining me for another week though. You’re not going to believe this but she is called Sarah as well.’
Adam hesitated on the plate he was scraping and tried to clear his muddled head to really concentrate on what this guy was saying.
‘Sarah you say? No kidding. Well isn’t that just the strangest thing, you’ll be telling me you have a dog called Styx next’ Adam laughed.
‘I do.’ The guest responded, lowering his voice. ‘My dog is called Styx.’
Adam looked at the guy for the first time. Properly looked at him. He wasn’t a cheap, circus trick after all. Adam may as well have been looking at himself, in his own bathroom mirror. The guest was the spitting image of the beleaguered host. Adam tried to speak but the man brought his finger to his lips.
‘I have a dog called Styx, I am an architect, MY wife is Sarah Smith…’
‘Now hold on.’ Adam interrupted. ‘Just hold on now… that can’t be…’
‘I AM AN ARCHITECT. MY WIFE IS SARAH SMITH. I AM ADAM SMITH.’ The guest thundered. He screamed it over and over. Adam’s mouth hung open as each word seared into his brain. His thoughts spread too thinly and snapped before they could formulate something that made sense. And then he looked into his doppelganger’s eyes and he knew. He knew it had come back for him.
The thing sped towards Adam and viciously gouged out his right eye. Before Adam could scream the priest grabbed a kitchen knife and plunged it into Adam’s throat. Silencing him forever.
Disposing of Adam’s body, the creature lifted a layer of reality like a curtain and unceremoniously dumped Adam into nothingness. The same place that insanity comes from.
When Sarah came home she found Adam holding their child.
‘Good evening.’ The thing that looked like Adam said.
The wind and the rain jostled for position as a gale shook the foundations of the house. The baby trembled and began to cry.
Credit: Rob Johnson