The wooden floor creaks as the wheels of my chair slide across it. I move slowly through the big dark room, looking at the gigantic window covering up an entire wall. The first I saw since I woke up. It must be nighttime, because I can't see anything outside. Not even the moonlight.
The room's decoration perfectly matches the rest of the house, with fancy knick-knacks all over the place. But somehow, the room manages to look darker then the badly lit hallways that I saw.
I direct my attention to the man sitting on the big red chair, in front of a lit fireplace. Mr. Charles, now wearing an elegant black suit, along with a black shirt, is looking at me from behind a book, waiting for me to get a bit closer to him.
"Hello, dear! It's so great to see that you're feeling better! You left me worried, y'know?" I don't reply. I try to remember what I was planning to use against him while Ava and Célestine took me here. But I can't focus on anything. He has his gaze glued on me, just like I do on him. I don't really enjoy looking at his face, but I also have the feeling that if I loose him out of sight, something bad will happen.
"Let me guess," he says, breaking my line of thought, "you're going to ask me who I am, and where you are?"
"No. I wanna know where my mother is" I say, surprised by my ability to talk.
Apparently, Mr. Charles is surprised too, because it takes a while for him to reply. He puts his book down on a small, dark table next to him. He crosses his legs and puts his hands on his knees, then he returns to speak with the same soft tone that he used when we first met.
"I was thinking about how I should tell you this." He says with a pained expression, his plumped lips stretching in a thin line. "I thought that maybe I could have waited until we introduced eachother, so that I could easily break it to you. But I guess there's no point in it, so I'll just say it: she's dead, dear."
The words take a while to sink into me. It feels like my heart is burying itself deeper into my body.
I look at Mr. Charles pale face, and I remember my mother's. When she was in the car, with blood on the side of her head.
"...w-what?" I finally manage to say.
"She's dead. After we found you, we put you to sleep because we were afraid that you would go into histeria and do something stupid. We put you in the car, and we went searching for your family, just like you mentioned. When we arrived at a scene with a grey car and a black van, we checked the bodies. There were two of them. A man and a woman. They were both dead." He spoke calmly.
The same pain that I felt on that moment, as I stood beside my dad's body, has found me again. But this time, I don't stand still. I get up from my wheelchair, ignoring my wound, and I walk over to where Mr. Charles is sitting. I put my hands on both of his shoulders, I look at him in the eyes, and I say:
"Are you really expecting for me to fall for that fucking story?"
He looks at me for a second, with a unsurprised, sympathetic expression, as if he's telling a child about their dead puppy.
"I wish I was lying, sweetchild. I really do. But it's the truth. Both of your parents are dead."
"BULLSHIT!" I scream as I slapped his face with my right hand. Smack! He doesn't seem afected at all. He slowly turns his head to meet my eyes once again, expecting me to hit him again, which I do. Again, and again. Smack! Smack! "Don't you-!" Smack! "-give me-!" Smack! "-that fucking bullshit!" Smack! "Tell me the truth!"
Mr. Charles grabs my wrists, halting me. I look at him, beyond his pale face and black sunken eyes, and I realise that what I fear is truth. I sit back on my chair as my anger evaporates, and I'm left with a crushing feeling of loneliness. My mother is dead. My father is dead. That's it. It's over. They're dead, and I'm alone with a strange man.
After a few minutes of silence between the two of us, I come to sudden realisation.
"Did you even call an ambulance?" I ask.
He hesitates for a moment, before answering: "Well, I didn't think it was necessary. They were already dead. There was nothing that anyone could do, dear," Mr. Charles excuses himself. Something feels horribly wrong. The way that he spoke in such a rush, as if he was trying to dodge the question.
"Why didn't you take me to a hospital?" I ask, trying to keep a blank expression. Mr. Charles looked vaguely uneasy for a fraction of second. If there was somebody else taking part on this conversation, they wouldn't notice it. But I did.
For a moment, he is quiet, then he speaks with an even softer tone than he was using before: "I was worried about you. I worry about all of my children. I was afraid that you would have blead to death if I did that. The nearest hospital is miles away, I thought that it would be best if I took you into my home, which is much closer. As soon as we got you in the car, I called a good friend of mine, a doctor who lives nearby, and we got you a blood transfusion. We saved you. You should be very thankful that we found you." He looks tense. He probably isn't used to be questioned like this. I glance at his hands. They are just as white as his face, and they have abnormally long fingers. Even though Mr. Charles is trying to keep his smiling facade, he can't help himself from fidgeting.
"Why did you drug me?" I question him, once again.
"I didn't want you to pani-"
"Yeah, yeah, you already told me that. That's not what I meant. What I meant is: you didn't know there was gonna be a car crash. I was the one who was looking for help. There was no way that you could have known about what happened to our car. Are you gonna tell me that you keep sedatives with you at all times? Just in case?" I make sure to emphasize the last part.
Again, silence. I patiently wait for an answer, eager to see what he'll come up with this time. His grin is beggining to fade, and his fingers have entered a restless state. And then he speaks, again with the plumy voice, that has become especially annoying to me:
"Listen, child. Do you know what kind of house this is?"
I shake my head, saying "no".
"This is a home," he says gesturing to the space around us. "The people that you see around here are all my children. They were all saved by me. I care very deeply about them. I feed them, I dress them, and I take care of them. I only want one thing from them: their talent."
The last part caught my attention, and I can't stop myself from asking: "What kind of talent?"
"Well, that depends," he explained with a hint of a smile, probably happy that the conversation was finally going his way. "Every child has a different talent. Usually, when I save them, I don't know anything about them. There are some rare occasions where I can tell a child's talent by just looking at them. But most of the time, it's a shot in the dark."
When Mr. Charles finished talking, I felt a shiver down my spine. Even though the room is very dimly lit, I can see the eerie glow that he has in his eyes. His lips, that are way too swollen for the rest of his face, are curved in a you-don't-even-know-what-expect's-you smile. My instinct, the little voice that hides on the back of my head is whispiring: This man is dangerous. I want to make him more questions. I want to make him confess whatever he has done to my mother. But the little voice speaks louder. So loud that it is impossible for me to ignore it. I need to get away from him. I need to leave.
I swallow the lump in my throat. I look at the floor, trying to avoid his gaze: "I would like to go home now."
I might not be looking at him, but I can feel his grin getting bigger and bigger. "Really? But you're still wounded! Don't be silly! You should stay for the night! I'll get Carolina to show you the house!"
I feel my stomach twisting inside of me. I can't focus on anything. The only sign that tells me that I haven't lost my sences is the loud ringing in my ears. I try to keep a blank expression, and I ask (well... I try to) with my firmest voice: "Please, let me go home. Please."
Mr. Charles smiles widely at my words.
He puts his hands on my shoulders from behind me. I let out an involuntary gasp. When the hell did he got up from his chair?
"I'm sorry, dear. But you have to stay. That's how it works." He whispered without a single trace of guilt or sympathy in his expression. He sounds... amused.
"I'll call someone to show you around." With that, he gets up and walks over to his desk, where a house phone is sitting. He dials a number and he says: "Ilia, send Carolina over. We have a new guest!" he finishes, with his classical, disgusting way of speaking.
A couple of minutes went by, but to me it seemed like only a second. There is a knock on the door, and we see a short girl with curly black hair walking in.
"You called for me, Mr. Charles?" she asks.
"Yes, I did, my dear. This is..." he appears lost for a second, then he looks at me. "I'm sorry dear, I didn't get your name," he says.
I look at him. His bizarre appearence still bothers me, but I do my best to keep my face stone cold.
"Don't act so tough, honey. It's useless. If you don't tell us your name, I'll just give you a new one," Mr. Charles replied with a little giggle.
I gather up all of my courage, and I lean back on my chair, crossing my arms in front of my chest.
"Go ahead," I spit.
The man clenches his fist, probably a bit irritated that I wouldn't give him my name.
"Fine! You shall now be called..." he looks at me pensative for a moment, the he shouts: "Bleu!"
The dark haired girl looks confused: "Really? 'Bleu'? What the hell kind of name is that?"
"It rhymes with 'new'! Don't you think it's perfect for her, my dear Carolina?"
The girl shrugs, her shoulder length hair bouncing a little while she does. "If you say so."
Mr. Charles chuckles, before blurting out: "Splendid! I'm glad we all agree. Carolina, I called you here so that you can introduce Bleu to our home. She's a bit... disabled, right now, so you'll probably need to use the elevator. Here, I'll give you the key." With that, Mr. Charles opened the top drawer on his desk, and he removed a small, silvery key from it, handing it over to the girl. "Well... Off you go! Oh, and Carolina..." He leans over to whisper something in her ear. I try to listen to what he is saying, but with no avail.
"Understood?" he asks. Carolina nods, and walks with heavy steps towards me. "Make sure that you give her some clothes. Oh, and some food too. I bet she's starving! Aren't you, Bleu?"
I don't reply. Instead, I look at the dark, wooden floor, and I dig my fingernails into the palm of my hand. Mr. Charles didn't wait for a response either, because he picks up the book that he had set on the coffee table moments ago, and he goes right back to his reading.
The girl ,apparently called Carolina, strolls me out of the room, and I hear him exclaiming "Cheerio!". Carolina closes the door with a heavy thud, and, finally, I'm out of Mr. Charles sight. I let out an exasperated breath, and I bury my head in my hands. God. What the fuck just happened? I was so determined when Ava and Célestine were taking me here. And look at me now. I've never been more terrified in my entire life. The only I know for sure, is that my mum is dead, and Mr. Charles killed her so that he could "save" me, and make me part of his "family".
I feel a hand on my shoulder, and I look up to see the girl. I didn't pay much attention to her appearence, but now I notice her brown eyes, with dark circles around them, her tanned skin covered in freckles, and her thin lips.
"So, 'Bleu'..." she starts, emphasizing my new nickname. "Look's like Mr. Charles got himself a new toy."
She slides my wheelchair in the opposite direction that I took when I was with Célestine and Ava. The hall through which Carolina leads me, looks just like all of the others. The only difference is: this one is much longer. We pass by all of the paintings, all of the lamps, candles, and antiques, all similiar to the ones that I've seen on the other halls. We pass by a few doors too. My brain wonders what's behind those doors, but at the same time, I don't want to know.
"I'm gonna be very honest with you, Bleu. You don't look like much. I don't know what Mr. Charles saw in you. The only occasion where he went through all this work, was when we got Peter. But Peter is strong and agile. While you... well...not so much." I might not be looking at her, but I can sence her look of disapproval. I wonder how many times she has walked down this hall. How many people she was forced to introduce to this huge trap. She probably already memorised all of the tiny little corners of this house.
What happened to her? How did she end up here? Why is she not helping me?
Finally, we arrive at the end of the hallway, where we are confronted by and old elevator. Carolina pushes the "down" button, and the steel doors open, with a light creak.
She pushes my chair inside, and the steel doors close behind us. Usually, elevators never have a great illumination, but this one, just like everything else that I've seen in this house, is even darker, being only illuminated by an incandescent light on the ceiling, which might as well not even exist.
"Alright, let's do this," my companion declares with a monotonous tone. "Mr. Charles told me that we should finish with the last floor, but we can begin wherever we want. Well, where do you wanna start, Bleu?" she asks, looking over at me.
I look at the buttons on the wall, with numbers going from 2 to -4. How am I supposed to choose? I keep imagining all kinds of traps in every floor. I squeeze my hands together, harder than I ever did before. I look at Carolina expecting to see some kind of sign. Maybe a suggestion, or maybe a hint. The girl offers me a dark smirk, painfully familiar to Mr. Charles, and it is now clear to me, that she isn't going to help me.
"Can't make up your mind, huh? That's okay! Just don't make that face. You look like a crazy person. Oh, and trust me, Bleu: there's already plenty of crazy in this house."
And with that, she pushes the "-3" button, and the elevator moves with a loud sizzle.
AN: Sorce for the cover image goes to user Dark-Drac ( .com ). (She's really cool, go check her out!)