The winding blacktop seemed endless as each turn disappeared into the haunting mist. The autumn fog engulfed nearly the entire forest that lined both sides of the back road, leaving only the frontline of trees visible. The leaves had already changed color, though not to the usual shades of red, yellow, and brown; instead, these leaves varied from shades of bruised purple to midnight black — the colors of death.

The mist swirled as my car sliced though its colloidal presence. I didn't bother with my headlights; no one would be using this road, especially at this hour.

I was, however, acutely aware of the numerous minions and grunts located within the fog; I could feel their rotted eyes watching my every move, hear the labored rise and fall of their chests as they forced the crisp night air in and out of their decayed lungs, taste the foul aura that surrounded the putrid corpses that they were.

He knew I was coming.

And he knew that I knew that he knew I was coming. That's what he wanted. That's why he placed his resurrected sentries along the road and throughout the forest. He wanted me to know that he knew exactly where I was and that there was no means of escape.

But I wasn't about to slam on the breaks, fishtail around, and peal out of there … Yeah, right.

This, too, he knew well enough. Which meant that he was flaunting his newfound "power" not for me, but for anyone stupid enough to follow me.

And, sure enough, they had followed. They were keeping their distance, but I could sense them following the same twists and turns.

I didn't have time to pull off to the side of the road and wait for them to catch up, just to tell them to turn around and go home. There was only a small window of time during which I could act; I couldn't afford any delays.

I floored the accelerator. The only thing I could do now was hope they didn't interfere at the wrong time.

The trees began to thin and push away from the road, along with the fog and its undead occupants, until they were replaced by grassy expanses. Then the familiar, towering, wrought iron gate jumped into view. It was pushed completely open and would have been a welcome sight — had I not known what awaited me beyond.

The snake-like back road was now a straight drive dotted by evenly spaced, untrimmed hedges. The fog marked the perimeter of the property, forming what looked to be a solid wall of mist, though I could plainly see smoky tendrils extend across the unkempt lawns.

The drive circled around a large statue, a monument of the man who had founded the city and lived in the mansion whose front entrance I was pulling up to. I turned the key in the ignition, silencing the engine.

Searching the glove compartment for a piece of paper and pencil, I found instead a Chinese take-out menu and a pen with fluorescent pink ink. That's what I got for borrowing Liz's car.

The back of the menu was blank; I used this to write my note on. I folded it in half, writing "IDIOTS" on the front in caps, right through the seafood section. Inside, I wrote:

"If you want to do this right, wait for my signal. By the way — have I mentioned that you're all IDIOTS?"

I checked to make sure I had everything I was going to need, exited the car, and slipped the note under a windshield wiper. The "idiots," a term most fitting in this case and many others, were nearing the edge of the forest. They wouldn't reach Liz's car for at least another two, maybe three, minutes. Hopefully, they'd find my note and wait. If not … well, things would just get too complicated too soon.

I marched up the front steps to the large, wooden double doors. Not pausing to use one of the doors' knockers, I lifted my leg, pulled it back, and let it spring forward, hitting the center of where both doors met with enough force to break a slab of granite. The doors, unlocked, merely flung apart, slamming into the walls as the door knockers jangled loudly.

Slowly, I lowered my still raised leg as my eyes searched the dark innards of the mansion. Cautiously, I stepped into the foyer. Finding nothing lurking in the shadows, I moved into the main hall, which housed an enormous, split, marble staircase, complimented by an ornately patterned marble floor, intricately carved marble pillars, and a lofty, vaulted ceiling.

I stopped in the center of the room. Pale moonlight spilled in from the doors I had just kicked open and poured through the windows that stretched up to the second story.

"Welcome back," echoed a voice as familiar as the abandoned house and its grounds.

"It's good to be home," I replied, looking up at the place where both sets of stairs met and at the source of the voice.

"That was quite the arrival," he commented, eyebrows raised.

"You know I like a grand entrance."

"I don't suppose you're here to accept my offer and join me?" he asked.

"I don't suppose you're going to stop what you're doing and put an end to this madness?" I countered.

"No," he replied with a chuckle, "I don't suppose I am."

"Then neither am I," I answered. "But I suppose you already knew the answer to that."

"As did you," he responded, folding his arms over his chest. He shook his head, eyes shut.

"Hrm. Such a waste," he continued in mock sadness. "It's a pity, really."

He paused, opening his eyes. "Oh, well. It's a lovely night for a funeral."

I snorted, half-smiling at the memory of my saying those same words what seemed an eternity ago.

"Yeah … Yours."


Author's Note:

This is meant to be complete, but every short piece I write always wants to be taken so much farther ... Alas, time is fleeting.

Please, leave your comments and criticisms.

Swarlos