Winter of 1985 — Somewhere in Northern Europe
It was snowing. Children played outside in the winter wonderland, throwing snowballs at one another, chasing each other, making snow angels with smiles on their faces. Christmas was coming, and snow, more than anything else, symbolized what the holiday was all about. Family. Love. The birth of Jesus Christ — the man who died for our sins. One would think that everyone would be excited that the big day was coming, but there were some people who hated life. Some people, like my father.
I could remember that morning more than anything else in my life. More than graduating from university. More than the first time I made love to my wife. This was it for me, this was the day I became a man. My little brother and sister sat inside, trying to drown out the sounds of my mother’s moans coming from the other room. Dad was drunk again, and when he got drunk one of two things happened: he would either hit mom, or not hit her on one condition: he got sex. Rough, rough sex.
Nikko was only five years old when it happened, he’s my brother. Or should I say, â€˜was’ my brother. My flesh and blood. My younger sibling. Gretel, my younger sister, was only four, but was smart for her age. He was capable of saying more sophisticated words than Nikko, and could describe things. I could remember one summer afternoon when my family was outside and she kept on asking me who some man was. There was no man near our house, but then she started describing him — saying he had dead white eyes and blood all over his face. Back then, I had no idea what schizophrenia was, seeing as I was only thirteen years old, but now I wonder if she was seeing things that were not real, or if she was seeing into the future.
My mother’s moans picked up as I stared outside of my window, watching as the kids near the local schoolhouse played in the snow. I wanted to join them, but I was told by my mother to look after Nikko and Gretel. I remember opening up the window and preparing to jump out of it to join the rest of the kids my age and go against her wishes. I debated about it with myself a bit, but in the end, I still can’t decide if what I did saved lives or killed them.
“What do you call that?!” my father roared from the other room, opening up the door to the living room, throwing my mother onto our old couch in-between my two siblings. “Why is your tongue like sandpaper, you bitch?” He screamed, grabbing a small framed family portrait off a cabinet and threw it at my mom, hitting her right between the eyes.
“Alfred! Please, not in front of the children! You’re already drunk as it is,” my mother pleaded, watching as before her very eyes, my father began to chug down another bottle of whiskey. He smelled of alcohol every single day, but that morning was the worst. He was so violent and so enraged.
“How am I supposed to love you when you won’t let me drink. You always take it all, and lock it in the cellar. Then when you take it out, you good-for-nothing whore, the blood flows from under you!” he lashed out on her, throwing his bottle right at her, narrowly missing her head. It smashed against the wall. Pieces of glass shattered across the room, cutting both Gretel and Nikko in the process.
Then they started crying. Screaming. Their tears began to flood the room in buckets. My father just stood there, fists clenched, staring down onto his right hand and his many rings. “Please stop!” my mother begged, trying to check on Gretel as I watched from the distance with the wind blowing onto my back through the open window.
“Dad, pleaseâ€¦” I quietly said, finally taking his stare away from his rings and my mother, and onto me. His black beard and side-shaved head were bushy and menacing. He looked like a hunter, and I was his prey.
“Don’t you interfere, Arthur,” he spoke softly, walking towards me. His black boots touched down onto the glass of the shattered whiskey bottle, cracking from under him. He was a big man — bulky chest, well over six feet, and muscular arms formed by years working as a lumberjack. He just stared at me, and turned his head slowly to the right where he kept his axe. My eyes widened.
“No!” I screamed, grabbing right arm, stopping him from reaching for it. “Don’t hurt us!” but he simply pushed me away, causing me to hit my head against the window frame. All I remember after that was my father punching me in the face with his ring-fingered hand, ripping away at my flesh. He punched me again and again, until eventually, he threw me through the open window, while my head busted through the frame, taking some glass with it. The scars remain.
I couldn’t move after that — my body ached worse than it ever had in my life. My brother and sister’s screams continued, and so did my mother’s cries for help. They were all in vain. The final words I remember hearing before blacking out were my mother screaming, “not the axe! No, not the axe!” And then my brother and sister crying louder than everâ€¦
â€¦When I woke up, I was in a hospital surrounded by a doctor and group of reporters. My house had burned to the ground that night, and apparently, my mother’s head was found right beside me when the police and ambulances arrived — on the ground, thrown from the window. I had never felt so alone in all my life. There was just one thing: my brother and sister were never found. Not their remains. Not their ashes. Nothing. And I never knew what happened until nearly thirty years later.
:::::Ruins of Konstantinov Household — December 1, 2009:::::
There was a calling inside of me. Like, a telepathic calling inside of my mind, telling me to go back to the place of my childhood. A place I never understood. A place I hated. A place a had nightmares about. But somehow, this thing inside of me — this thing I can’t describe — it demanded I go back, perhaps just to get some closure.
I drove for five days straight, just stopping for coffee every now and again, and to fill up on gas. I don’t know why I did it, or why I went ahead with it, but I guess sometimes things are better left unsaid.
When I entered my old town, things were quite different. The old schoolhouse had closed down, and many of the houses were either abandoned or were used as places to keep drugs and illegal weapons. My old neighbourhood had become so twisted. Then again, with time, everything eventually turns dark.
There was a half moon that night, and the howling of wolves echoed in the air from up in the mountains. I watched from a distance as a few men loaded up half a dozen brown boxes into a car, trying to act nonchalant while doing so. Right, as if they were not filling their car with cocaine and AK-47s. As I gulped down the last of my coffee, I headed down a lonely road, and eventually towards the ruins of my old home. A place that hadn’t even been cleaned up. From the distance I could already see what used to be my home — it had become a scrap yard, a wasteland.
When I parked the car, I unbuckled my seatbelt and walked out, leaving my trail of footprints in the snow. The oddest thing happened, though: that thing inside of me — that calling I mentioned, it got stronger, and louder, like it was breaking through my flesh.
It told me to go to the middle of the ruins, and so I did, walking passed charred wood and old broken walls. As I got closer, I began to feel my eyes opening wider, scanning the area. My heart began to race, beating faster and faster like I had run a marathon. I stood in the center of what used to be my house as sweat began to drip down my brow and face in buckets, like I was in the presence of Hephaestus — the god of fire. Within an instant, I could sense it — something living underneath.
The thing inside me told me to start digging, and so I did. Dropping to my knees, I began to use my bare hands to dig up old the ruins and burnt wood. I dug faster and faster, tearing away at my skin in the process, but the more I bled, the faster I dug, and the better I did so.
For an hour I dug, turning my hands into raw meat. And there it was, laid before my very eyes — the door to our cellar. Our old wine cellar — there was nothing down there but wine and some vegetables. I began to wonder why I was called there, but then the voice inside of me got louder and louder, like a buzzing noise, like — â€¦like the sound of Nikko and Gretel crying that morning.
It was at that moment, I grabbed the most usable piece of metal in the pile of scrap, and dug it down into the cellar door, tearing it up, gaining leverage to eventually open it. I pushed down with all my might as the piece of metal was pressed into the door. The buzzing only got louder. And louder. And louder. Eventuallyâ€¦
A thick smoky mist began to ease out of the basement and into the musky air. I watched and waited for over five minutes as the purple mist made its way out of the cellar and eventually, succumbing to the cold, manifesting itself within it.
And laughter. From under. Living people. Laughter.
“Nikko! Gretel!” I cried into the night, jumping down into the cellar, walking down the old stairs not damaged by the inferno that once engulfed my house in flames. As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I dug into my pocket and took out a match and used it, lighting up the basement.
“Helloâ€¦ brother,” a female spoke boldly, her footsteps came closer from the abyss, echoing with that of another pair of footsteps — louder ones.
“Gretel, is that you?” I meekly asked, and watched as two faces became visible within distance of my match. What I saw nearly made me throw up.
“So good to see you,” a woman said, dressed in clothes I could remember so clearly. My mother’s clothes — her bloody, torn pink skirt, and white blouse.
“You remember us?” a male voice asked. It was the voice of Nikko, only older, and deeper. He wore my father’s clothes — they too were bloody and torn.
“How are you alive?” I asked them, sweat dripping from my brow. Between the scent wine, old blood and musky air, I could hardly believe what I saw. Their faces were so bloody.
“We’ve been waiting for you,” Nikko gasped, tears forming in his eyes. “We had enough wine to last us a lifetime, and we got fresh air every time we managed to push open the cellar door — we just could never escape — too much rubble on top, it kept on pushing it back down. The most we ever had it open was fifteen minutes before the rubble closed in. We’re so glad it worked. Gretel, your plan worked!”
“Plan? What plan?” I asked.
“She has these abilities,” Nikko blurted out, nodding his head. “She can see things and hear thoughts from miles away. That’s how she kept learning new things, new words, and she taught me them. She could see youâ€¦ she’s seen you for years!” He laughed, hugging his sister.
“I called to you,” she said smiling. “Oh big brother, we love you!”
“How did you eat?” I questioned. “All the vegetables that were down here they must have–“
“Rotted?” Gretel interrupted. “Yes, but there was enough to last us until I was older. Then Nikko and I had to find other ways to eat.”
“Other ways?” I asked quickly. Both Gretel and Nikko looked at each other and nodded. Without warning, Gretel lifted up her blouse to reveal a large stomach. It took me awhile to clue in — she was pregnant.
“No! No!” I screamed, shaking my head. “That’s incest!” I cried, tears forming in my eyes. “Don’t you know what you’ve done. And you’ve eaten them!”
“We had to survive!” Nikko howled, walking towards me, patting me on the arm.
“Get away from me, Nikko!” I roared, pushing his arm away. “What have you two done?”
“My name isn’t Nikko anymore,” my baby brother quietly said, turning towards Gretel, kissing her on the lips causing me to nearly vomit. “It’s Vlad. Nikko was the name my father wanted for me, but you know, when he set the fire, he came down here after us.”
“He did?” I meekly asked, gulping down my saliva.
“Yes,” Vlad said, smiling, licking his lips. “Gretel distracted him while I grabbed his axe, and you know what I did?”
“We cut him up. We ate him. We ate him for killing mom,” Gretel smiled, laughing. “We still have the axe, want to see?”
“No!” I cried. “No! Why am I here? Why did you call to me?”
“To save us,” Gretel said. “Finally now, at long last, we can do what we always wanted to do for so long.”
“What–what—what’s that?” the words barely managed to escape my lips.
“Kill everyone,” they both said in unison. And almost like it was magic, the sun rose in the sky — morning had finally come. As the star took its place above us, the basement became so visible.
My mouth dropped.
Carcasses of dead babies, dried blood, wine all over the floor, and my father’s rotten body — his face completely eaten away leaving just the back of his head. And I stared into the white eyes of Vlad and Gretel as they looked at me with faceless expressions.
“Thank you, brother,” they said together. “Thank you for making us complete.”
On that day, I brought hell into the world. The two children who were trapped in purgatory for years hadn’t grown up like most people do. Instead, they ate the face of that who tried to kill them, and maybe it was the fact they ate the devil’s stare, that they in turn became darkness and corrupted by Satan’s treachery. They both walked away, up the stairs, into the world, leaving me alone.
â€¦Hell’s gate had opened.