Edith lingered around the painting, breathing in the truth captured in the canvas. There was still the master bedroom left to clear, but she found it hard to break away. This painting was the answer to the mystery surrounding Clara’s disappearance.
For decades, she searched for signs of her friend’s fate, a task made difficult due to the loss of the Tower. Had Edith not assumed the events were linked, she would have been sure to keep a keen eye on the living world. Instead, she ended up with yet another lesson about those who make unfounded assumptions.
The sight of her in that portrait not only triggered a deep sense of betrayal, but left her envious. Edith loved Clara and would have given up the world just to be with her. Instead, Clara ran off to join the likes of them? What kind of draw did this harlot have?
Edith sighed, closed her eyes, and turned away. Lingering over that image would only serve to weaken her. She needed to stay focused and complete this mission. Otherwise, Angela would remain out of reach, and unlike this traitorous bitch, Angela loved her back in kind.
She walked out into the hallway and turned to face the master bedroom. The room was dark, except for a dull red glow emanating from the alarm clock. It was still dark outside, so Edith concentrated on the outlines of the furniture and effects. It seemed odd that nothing appeared to be suspicious or out of place.
Given the general lack of activity, Edith decided to take a leap of faith. The moment she put one foot inside the bedroom, all hell broke loose.
“Run,” Evelyn said.
Edith looked down the hall towards the site of the previous altercation. There would have been multiple assailants, considering the amount of ammunition used to create that type of damage.
Edith had seen that tactic before, during the war. Every so often, one of their kind would get caught up in a skirmish, take a hit, and remain unaffected. Once the initial shock settled, soldiers from both sides soon realised that keeping their fingers depressed on the trigger was key to their salvation.
She had seen mounds of empty casings piled around bodies, all in an attempt to disable one of them. Sometimes they got lucky, but more often than not, the scene ended up with heaps of bodies. The most powerful of their kind, especially in a frenzy, needed many more shots to the centre of mass to be taken down.
As the sounds of chaos continued on, Edith noticed something phase into existence. It was a younger woman, blonde, cowering in fear in response to the commotion outside her front door.
The woman phased in and out of reality, flickering like a movie projector with a faulty bulb. Edith had sympathy for this apparition, condemned to relive the same traumatic event. Ghosts did, in fact, exist and many were caught in loops, just like this one.
But in a snap, the ethereal apparition got onto its feet and sprinted towards the bedroom. Given the right conditions, anyone could be rallied to act, their instinct for survival roused from its dormant state, asserting itself with a vengeance.
Fear imbued every part of the fleeing woman’s face. Edith had seen it in inexperienced hunters or the victims of things they encountered during hunts. This ghostly apparition approached with haste; but Edith was not worried, observing from where she stood, looking for a telltale clue.
Edith reached out, curious about what she would feel once she made contact with this presence. In truth, she already knew what would happen, one of the details committed to memory in life. Still, reading about something and experiencing it first-hand were rarely one and the same.
While the Tower denied the existence of ghosts or earthly spirits, she had found a codex that indicated otherwise, hidden away in one of the abandoned wings. In the beginning, she had steadfastly refused to believe the contents of that reference, or at least, until she was mortally wounded in an altercation with some ghouls. In that moment of desperation, she reached out to the dead.
Had this been an actual spirit, the interaction would have sent a chill running down her spine, feeling as though someone had stepped on her grave. That was Edith’s mistake, another assumption which would cost her dearly. The moment they came in contact, an electric current flowed from the tip of her finger and rode through her nervous system into her left foot.
The jolt repelled her at a frightening rate, hurtling through the air into the wall. On impact, plaster and slats of wood gave way until she reached the brick foundation. The remaining momentum was absorbed by her body, fracturing ribs and her left wing’s humerus. The concussive shock also served to knock the wind out of her.
Her lungs burned, and she gasped for air, but the searing pain prevented her from taking in more than a few shallow breaths at a time. She tried to calm down, to heal, but the extent of her injuries was too great. As her body began to shut down, it dragged her conscious mind with it. Just before she slipped into unconsciousness, Edith heard a nearby window shatter into hundreds of pieces.
Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!