Raindrops shatter like glass against a fading sign above a bar. Painted in white and chipping off a red tin awning, “The Hole” is barely visible to a discerning eye, and even more elusive deep into the night. A police officer named Paul Phelps sits hunched over a table holding a drink across from a woman wearing a black trench coat and a large brim hat. She sips whiskey straight from a glass with no ice.
“The last person to see Darby alive was her landlord who said the young girl mentioned conducting research on the Mansion. He said he had worried about her going alone,” Paul Phelps explains wistfully.
The woman, Blythe Pierce, a clever yet stubborn and cynical detective, listens thoroughly. “And what about her editor at the Sentinel?”
Phelps nods. “Confirmed that she was reporting on the Mansion, but was specifically instructed not to go there, even if with another person.”
Pierce sighs heavily and takes a drink. “Guess you are faced with the inevitable then…”
“Another case like this and the whole force could fall apart at the seams, Pierce. The public doesn’t trust us to do anything any longer.”
“That is a shame.”
“I have a wife... kids, Blythe.”
“I don’t see how that’s my problem.”
“Five detectives have gone missing after investigating the Mansion. Now no one is brave enough to go back there again…”
Pierce stares intently at Phelps. As she raises her thinly groomed eyebrows, her forehead folds like an accordion.
“Sergeant Kristch has locked himself in his office, threatening not to come out until we close any case that goes near the island.”
Tapping her fingers on the table, Pierce stares confidently at Phelps. Phelps is wiping his forehead, appearing to almost cry. “And with this god damn rationing of resources. I mean, honestly, do you think they’re ever going to find a chemical-compound powerful enough to replace the presence of water? Or strong enough to convert the surplus carbon dioxide to oxygen?”
She rolls her eyes then looks at him sternly. “Well, I… I know a very reputable scientist who is working on it… that’s all I am obliged to say.”
“Well, that is tangential anyhow. But it is my job to find this girl, Pierce. And I need your help.” Phelps wipes his eyes. “Pierce, I wouldn’t be telling you any of this… except you’re the only person in the state I can think of capable of engineering a plan ingenious enough to get the girl out of the Mansion.” Pierce stirs her drink and takes a sip.
“I need you to orchestrate this, not for yourself, but for my entire team…”
“What about the girl, and her family?” Pierce asks.
“You’re smart enough to know this isn’t about her… there’s a bigger problem at hand.”
Pierce sets her hands down on the table. “I do appreciate the compliment, Paul, but ordinarily I only choreograph for solo routines.” She pushes her chair out.
“No -- no wait,” Phelps pleads. She sits back down. A bug-eyed bartender watches them from across the room. “That’s what I was afraid of.” Pierce lifts up her hat and stands up. The bartender comes closer.
“Fear is your worst enemy,” he says, his eyes bulging from his head.
Pierce buttons her coat and turns emphatically toward the door, looking back at the server and nodding solemnly. “And what makes you think I do anything that isn’t just for myself?” she asks aggressively.
“Hey now, wait—” Phelps jumps out of his chair. “Seriously Pierce, you can’t—”
“Have a good night Paul,” she says pushing the door open. Pierce leaves the bar, and outside she lights a cigarette.
Pierce walks down a dark street with a hand in her pocket while smoking with the other. From her pocket, she pulls out a small tape recorder into which she begins to speak.
“Dregsville-- it’s exactly what the name means— a city with nothing left, nothing enjoyable. Nothing to save, nothing to save us.”
The bags under her eyes become heavier.
“My job is to be reminded of this on a daily basis. Countless crimes go unsolved each week, and I’m made to feel responsible for every one.” She drags her cigarette.
“I always find what I’m looking for. If it weren’t for me, the whole city would crumble in shame.”
She continues walking, smoking with one hand. Pressing the tape recorded to the side of her mouth.
As she walks, she peers into storefronts. “Someone vanishes every now and again, but it’s usually a runaway or a ruffian.” She picks up a newspaper from a stand and slides it into her coat. ”But earlier this week this Darby Ralters, an honor student in college, an award-winning journalist-- a young woman with a lot ahead of her-- disappeared after doing a report on an attraction at Tortue Isle…” Pierce walks under a stone archway.
”Tortue Isle’s most famous attraction, the Wax Mansion, once the home of the adored and respected celebrity, Mimi Cloane was annexed by Dr. Nemo Drocat. The Mansion, built entirely of the element wauxite is unlike any other building anywhere in existence. Wauxite itself is an emotion-and thought-reading substance, which means that whatever happens within its walls is entirely a response to the person or collective people’s psyche who inhabit it...” she pauses for a few seconds with the recording device resting against her lips.
“While Mimi Cloane lived in it, the Mansion presented as an exact replication of her, a giant statue of the starlet. The front door was built in the high-heel of her right shoe. Guests took a long elevator up Mimi's Leg and into her head, where livable areas of the home existed. Inside Mimi’s head, all-day fancy parties and music from her films played. Paintings and bookshelves filled with only work of or about the actress covered every square-inch of the walls. Fans took photos of the house as though it were a famous landmark or the actual-- albeit a macro version of-- Mimi Cloane on the street,” Pierce nodded her head as she recounted the past.
“Since Drocot’s occupation of the Mansion, however, only evil tales have ever escaped its walls. The night he took it over, the space physically transformed into a haunted house. Cobwebs connected trees in the yard, skulls topped each post on the fence, and red demon eyes appeared in the unwatered bushes. When this happened, and Cloane went missing, the island’s security decided within a few days that they must close the Mansion to the public. Soon after, the entire island was shut down. Because of this, Drocot became resentful of the outside world -- even nearby towns like Dregsville. Out of anger, he began an assault on our freedoms. He, and his army of followers, robbed us of all our resources, like fresh water and clean air. It is said he now hoards them somewhere in the mansion…”
Still meandering outside in the damp, dark night, Pierce enters an unmarked door and heads upstairs. She sets the recording device and newspaper down on the desk. Pouring coffee, she sits and scans the paper. The headline in the newspaper reads Wax House Slated For 12th Satellite Audit in April. She reads the text under it, too. It says, It is too dangerous for humans to enter. Out loud, she reads, “It is advised that no one-- no matter how strong, emotionless, or brave they believe they are… should go to the island.” She rests her heels on the desk in front of her and observes the page. A reminder at the bottom of the page reads:
TORTUE ISLE IS CLOSED FOR GOOD. IF YOU’VE BOUGHT TICKETS IN ADVANCE AND NEED A REFUND, PLEASE CALL 14-234 TO SPEAK TO A CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE.
“They’ve tried so many different ways to get rid of it,” she says into the recording device.
“Bombs…bulldozers, arson, a sack of flour and a couple rounds of ammunition—- the only thing left is to try to transfer its particles, move it as far away from us as possible. But, wherever it is, it is so evil. Its essence will always exist. If not in reality, in our minds,” she announced, taking a deep breath.
“For a time, a popular opinion was that positive thoughts and energy could rid the house of its wicked dweller. A group of activists protested the use of negative emotions or violent means to destroy the Mansion. They believed if thousands of people went to the site of the Mansion to meditate on positive thoughts, collectively, their powerful thoughts and emotions could diminish its evilness.”
Pierce walks over to a full-length mirror and examines her appearance. She has small but fierce features, a pointy nose and chin, penetrating brown eyes. Her stomach growls angrily; she hasn’t had a bite of food in hours. She opens the fridge and it is empty. She sighs and continues to narrate her memories of the Mansion’s history.
“But the plan backfired, and the group of people meditating were defeated. Their thoughts weren’t powerful enough against the evil that lurked within the Mansion’s walls. Instead of meditating on peace, they became consumed by sinister thoughts and ideas-- eventually becoming followers of Drocot,” she says staring into the mysterious black holes centered in her dark brown irises.
“It is not the Mansion we need to destroy... it is the beast within...” she says. Her words linger. She lowers her feet, sets the paper on the desk and shuts off the recording device.
A breeze hits the window, and it flings open. She gets up to close it. She puts her hand on the ledge and stares out the window as the curtain curls around her. The moon hangs loosely in the dark. She looks to the shoreline and over a body of water where a layer of land lays flat across it. On top of the flat lump of earth, a theme park and a gloomy mountain range run together. A Mansion with a dusty dark grey glow stands among a Ferris wheel, a giant jack-o-lantern, and a rickety roller coaster. None of the rides are lit up, but the Mansion’s grey aura glows over a portion of the park. She turns to go back to her desk. She thumbs through the pages of the newspaper and stops on a page of puzzles. She takes out a pencil, reads some clues, and scribbles into a few boxes.
She thinks out loud. “Center of attraction. Five letters. Focal…? No. ”
She scratches something out with the end of her pencil. “Locus...? No... Heart...? No... Hmmm… Is it orbit? No... hmmm... Cycle? Not that either.” She leans against a poster diagram of the human brain and lights a cigarette, talking to herself.
“Phelps is right. Going to the island is the only option if we want to find Darby, or save the integrity of our work as detectives, and the future of Dregsville. They aren’t going to do it—they need me. They rely on me.” She takes a long drag and ashes. “It isn’t for the weak of mind.” A corner of the human brain poster starts to fall off the wall, Pierce catches it before it completely falls.
“I’ll make sure I’m only there for a few hours, and I won’t be armed. That’s one thing these cops can’t seem to figure out… carrying weapons actually makes the Mansion more dangerous.”
Across a body of water, Pierce climbs out of a small rowboat and ties it to the dock with a thick rope. Her stomach grumbles as loudly as the boat's motor. An enormous mountain cluster looms overhead. She sighs heavily.
An excruciating, high-pitched laugh violently stabs the air. On quiet nights, some say you can hear the sinister cackling on the mainland-- often, reportedly followed by a cold breeze. She walks from the dock to the gates of the amusement park, stomping up a path that eventually reaches the yard outside of the Mansion. She approaches the twisted gate. Lightning strikes the ground and thunder collides with the earth. Her notebook suddenly appears soaked and the ink runs off the page. She drags herself to the front porch, but hesitates for a few minutes before she walks in. “I guess this is it.”
Pierce pushes the door open. Inside, it is dim and dusty. She puts her hand through a cobweb. “So this really just is... a haunted house. It’s as though… the public is always trying to scare you about this place. It was probably closed down because of how unsanitary these walls are… it could make a person sick.
Footprints and hand marks appear smeared all over the floor and walls. Pierce bends over with a magnifying glass. She puts on gloves and rolls a cotton swab over the area.
“Of course evidence like this won’t really benefit my research. At least it will be something helpful to give Paul, in case he needs proof that Darby was actually here. Maybe he’ll win a department award for his hard work.”
A first place trophy poofs from tiny particles of dirt and then disintegrates on the floor. Pierce puts the swab in a plastic bag and sticks it in her coat. Soot wafts to her face and she coughs.
“I don’t even want to humor myself about what that was.”
The shrill laugh drills into her ears. A rotting clown appears on the ground next to her and withers into dust.
“Yeah, yeah. I know how this works. Don’t let your mind wander too much.”
A brain, with arms and legs, jumps off a dusty bookshelf and runs down the stairs.
“Ok,” she closes her eyes. “It’s a beautiful day,” she says declaratively. When she opens them, the dust sparkles and the room gets brighter. “Not so difficult, kinda fun.”
A door creaks open off the corridor and she goes into the newly discovered room. It’s full of old toys. There are toys like a kite, jump rope, a top, and roller skates, all covered in grime. A draft blows the curtains away from the window. She hears the cackle and jumps. “Eek!”
“Ok… tranquil state of mind…” Pierce coxes herself into a calmness. The room transmutes into a park and she is pleased.
She smiles, and the tone of the room changes along with her happy grin. It continues bending and slowly begins to assume an eerie tone and her expression changes from one of pleasure to worry. “Uh, oh…”
The trees’ upturned branches turn into grimaces, a green apple falls off one of the trees. The squirrels’ eyes become sinister. The sun melts. Then something heavy, small and black drops from the sky and beams onto Pierce’s arm. She looks around and another one nails her on the head.
“What in the… actual hell?”
Several other black items fall on and around her.
She picks one of the fallen objects and sees that it’s a dead black bird. She kicks a cluster surrounding her feet. Hundreds fall from the sky and land on Pierce and around her. She looks toward the sky, covering her head.
It downpours and the room quickly fills up with the birds before Pierce can get to the door. She is face-to-face with hundreds of thousands of dead birds. A beak slides into her left ear. She pulls it out by its tail. “RAVENS!”
Another beak inches up one of her nostrils and she screams. She swims through the birds toward the door. When she reaches it, she turns the handle. The birds unload into the hallway as Pierce leans over, gasping for air. A giant boulder falls from above, crashing down next to her.
“Maybe my mind… isn’t on my side here,” she says, putting her hands on her head to protect her skull from plummeting bird beaks. “Drocot must be here somewhere. It may not be safe. His energy is all-consuming. How can he have such control over the wax? It’s so… malleable…” The whole house softens.
“Maybe they were right…. I shouldn’t have come….” Pierce walks toward the front door and tries to open it. It’s melted shut. She runs to a window. It’s also melted closed. “Of course.”
She tries to take a step. Her foot is stuck to the floor, and she can’t pull it free. Like quicksand, the wax relentlessly pulls her into the ground. She is surrounded by a green and brown gelatinous substance. She struggles.
“Ugh. I can’t… breathe… the… wax… is… swallowing me. Need… to believe… I can… swim…to land… I can get out…”
Paddling her arms and legs, she finds herself in a thick swamp and there is no land in site. The swamp bubbles around her and she sees a gondola gliding toward her.
“Hello? Help! Help me!”
The boat reaches her and the boatman waves her in.
“Thank you, sir. Sir…?”
As Pierce climbs into the gondola, she sees that the boatman’s lips are melted closed.
“Oh. You can’t talk…” Suddenly Pierce’s lips melt together and she can’t speak either. “Maw Mee Maahh.” She grabs at her lips and tries to pull them apart. The boatman’s eyes enlarge, sympathetically, and he shakes his head.
Pierce looks him directly in the eye and thinks... You are… like me... you’re trapped in this this void? I can see it... you want to escape, but you can’t. Maybe we can work together….. Can you write?
Pierce hands a notepad and a pen to the boatman. He scribbles and hands it back to her. It reads, “Destiny is your will.”
She thinks again, But I have no control! You see, I was pulled into this swamp by something other than myself. And now you are guiding this boat. I don’t know where you are taking me—I can’t.
He scribbles on the notepad again. It says, “No. Your fear guides you.”
In her head, she is screaming her thoughts. But… fear isn’t something you can change— it exists whether you ignore it or confront it.
The boatman writes again. “Consume it, or it will consume you.”
She thinks again …if we work together, we can escape this Hell. The Mansion reads the electricity from our brains and our emotions. Together we can control—
The boatman writes, “Hell isn’t where we are, it’s what’s inside us.” Pierce closes her eyes.
He’s right, she thinks hard. Where am I but my own mind?
The boatman, his oar, and the boat liquify and flow back into the wax.
Pierce blinks her eyes hard and finds herself outside the Mansion again. The yard is still dark, eerie, full of cobwebs.
Now I have a choice. I can leave now and return without finding this poor girl. And the feeling that I have run away from something… or I could confront whatever this fear is lingering inside me and try to sublimate my own negative energy… and make something good.
Pierce boldly walks up to the door of the Mansion and enters.
The house is still dark and dusty. The door to the basement swings open. She smells food and follows a light leading to the basement stairs and walks down slowly. On the ground floor, a group of people collectively push through a curtain. They are all wearing masks. Over their heads they hold a giant slab of meat on a board. Pierce frantically backs into a pole made of a giant bone.
The people pretend to ignore her and she closes her eyes and tries to think clearly. The leader of the group enters across from Pierce and speaks to the group secretly, he is also wearing a silver mask. He has a vial of a dark red liquid. Each member of the group stands with their tongues out as he spills a tiny drop onto each of their tongues. They all turn toward a large portrait on the wall depicting a man leaning on a cane. She can see his bright red eyes from twenty feet away. His visage is defined by a round nose with spindly, pink veins, and thick, dark eyebrows. The man smiles enormously; in his mouth are three rows of teeth. Underneath the portrait, the name “Drocot” is etched into a metal plate.
The food aroma wafts into Pierce’s nostrils. Her stomach rumbles as she realizes she hasn’t eaten in hours.
The group of people exit their huddle and stand across from Pierce.
The leader walks directly over to her. He stands uncomfortably still with perfect posture. “Well?” he says to Pierce.
Pierce is visibly confused. “Where is she?” she asks directly.
“Where is.. who…” the man in the mask asks, looking at the slab of meat on the board above the groups’ head.
Pierce sees her own reflection in the silver disguise.
“I know who you are, Nomodor Drocot,” she says, fearlessly. “What did you do with her?”
“Ha ha ha ha. Do?”
“Where is she?”
“The same place you will soon be,” he says with confidence.
“Where is that? …into your lair to make me one of you?” Pierce steps forward. “And if I refuse?”
“Oh what a delight, everyone. We have a hero!” the man says twisting his cane. “Make her into a sandwich!”
The members of the group laugh. One shakes the board holding the slab of meat. The meat jiggles.
"Well, why in the world wouldn’t you want to? Do you know how much fun we could have?"
Pierces looks at herself in the reflection. She is not smiling.
“Running away from my invitation wouldn’t benefit your ability to understand the world any more than laying flat on your back and staring at the stars to learn about world history. Besides, you don’t want to be rude, do you?”
“You know what I’m looking for…”
“I know. Come with me, I’ve prepared something for you...”
Pierce eyes Drocot. Drocot drums his fingers together. Then with a suspicious eye, Pierce follows Drocot through a door. They enter a darkly lit room where a meal is presented on a table.
“Have a seat.”
Drocot pulls out a chair, inviting Pierce to sit down. Reluctantly, Pierce sits. She pulls out her napkin that reads Consume it before it consumes you. She sets it on her lap and the message disappears.
Her stomach screams for sustenance.
“Hey, you can’t be so scared all the time, kiddo.” Drocot reaches his long, dry fingers toward Pierce’s face. She backs up. He sits down really close to her. “You have to realize… this is survival. It’s always… kill or be killed. I choose the former, because I refuse to give my life to someone else. Do you want to give your life to someone else, dear?” He scoots closer to her. She moves away.
“Ok, so where is she?”
“Blythe, tell me something… Do you ever wish for things? To be stronger… more powerful… sharper… better at what you do?”
“I do what I can to keep my mind and body strong.” she replies.
“Ahh, I see— that’s a good way to understand the world. But how do you think you understand people and their motives so well?” Drocot pours her a glass of water.
“Well, I, uh, people make up the world. I watch them, I read about them, I listen to them. I read books on psychology… and specifically focus on the human brain.”
“Have some…” he slides the glass of water toward her.
“You know, water is actually impossible to get on the mainland these days.”
“Is that right?”
“Just like a lot of other resources…”
“That is a shame.”
“Since you turned off our power, we have to ration everything.” Drocot pushes his chair out and stands up.
“Everything… the newspapers have had to cut down to two pages a day, people can only watch television between four and six, only the wealthy can drive vehicles, and that’s because they stockpiled fuel to keep them running.”
“I don’t know who you think I am… “
“Look, don’t insult me. I know what you’re doing”
“Is that so?”
“You want me to think this meal is Darby. The cannibal jokes, the blood, the bones, the implications. But you didn’t… you wouldn’t.”
“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. How would you ever know?”
“I told you—I understand people. You’re not as evil as you want people to think you are.”
“Ha ha ha ha ha.”
“You just... like to play games.”
“Games! Ha ha ha ha.”
“You want to point things out. You want us to see how … evil we all could be.”
“Is that so? So you wouldn’t eat the girl…” he says, pushing the plate toward her. She holds her gaze on him. Her stomach begs her for the food.
“This isn’t the girl…” Pierce lifts her fork up and stabs it through the meat on her plate.
“Mmmhmm…” Drocot looks at her confidentiality. “You’re right about that.”
She shoves a bite into her mouth. Drocot’s expression settles. She takes another bite,
and his arm disappears. She likes the taste and eats more. As she swallows her food, the man begins to disappear. Encouraged, she begins eating faster and faster. He continues to disappear before her eyes. Arms, legs, feet— .
Once her plate is clear, he is entirely gone.
Consume it before it consumes you… “I guess it pays to listen to your gut...” she says proudly.
She lifts a metal jug to pour herself a glass of water. As she grips its handle, she looks at her reflection… but what she sees is no longer her. Beady red eyes, a fat nose with pink windy veins, and thick, dark eyebrows shine back at her.
She runs her hand down her face to feel its sudden changes. Opening her mouth, she puts her hand inside and drags her fingers along three rows of teeth.
“No… no… it can’t be… “NOOOOOOOOOO!” she screams into a void, but the only response is piercing, delirious laughter…
“You are what you eat!” it says.
A cold breeze slashes across her face.
There is a place beyond reality, a mysterious darkness
and its wires often tangle with those of the human psyche
Now most call this place the mind, the cerebral space
where humans and mutants interpret
sight, sound, pleasure, and pain
where the brain can imagine dimensions
beyond the physical realm
For some, this experience can be rewarding:
a vacation, a favorite room to read a book,
a dream one never wants to leave.
But for others, it is a dark path, a dismal trap,
a daymare one can never escape.
Everyone’s reality is different.
Your mind takes you on a surreal journey—
through the depths of your psyche and back again.
If you want to know the truth about who you are
you must ask yourself and be ready for honest answers —
What is it that motivates you, challenges you, consumes your mind?
Take a trip to The Wax Mansion and see for yourself.
How do you get there you ask?
Just… close your eyes.
by imma dot