48 - The Dream Again

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Hunched over the computer and the paperwork in the shop's back office, Natasha Loman must have fallen asleep, because she found herself within a dream. It was the kind of dream that brings with it an awareness of dreaming without offering any exit; a dream that must be endured before you can awaken. 

It was a familiar dream, a nightmare recollection that -- now that she was in it -- she realized she had lived through several times before. In the dream, she was walking down the hallway of the house, from the kitchen back toward the bedroom. It was dark, with bright shafts of white light splashing colorlessly upon the wall -- a chiaroscuro of shadow in a dreamscape rendered in gray scale.

In the dream, a dozen pairs of eyes peered down at her from the paintings on the walls. People shifted in their portraits, twisting around to look at her with wide, blank white eyes, their mouths yawning open in silent screams.

Evil calls to evil, one portrait said, in a voice that sounded like Miriam's. It awakens what is sleeping.

The devil will get what he is owed, another portrait said. His hounds will follow you forever, once they have your scent.

In the dream, Nat moved soundlessly down the hall, gliding over the carpet. She could hear the sound of breathing at her heels, a quiet panting of hot breath against the back of her legs. She could not turn around to look, but she knew that if she did, a pair of red-hot eyes would blaze up to see her with all the fury of hell burning within.

But she moved forward all the same, and the blank-eyed portraits continued to whisper.

Who killed the cat, Natasha.

The devil will get what's his.

The call awakens the deeper evil in us all.

Burn it all. 

At the end of the hallway, a splash of deep crimson stood out starkly from the white-and-black surroundings. It pooled out from beneath a closed doorway, a viscous puddle that traveled and spread and soaked down deep into the carpet.

She realized sluggishly, her mind made dim and hazy by the dream: It was coming from Liam's room.

She extended a hand to the knob, and the door opened before she could touch it.

Inside was a riot of color. Gone were the shades of gray and darkness from the hall. Here, everything was bright and hard and washed in crimson.

A spray of blood coated the walls and ceiling, white plaster barely peeking through the fine misting of red. Blood, thick and red-black, soaked deep into the carpet.

Lying face-down in the middle of the floor, blood soaking up into the white-blonde feathers of his hair, was Liam. A tremendous butcher knife stood out from his spine, its dark handle prominent against the wash of blood soaked through his shirt.

On her knees beside him, blood streaking her face and making a criss-cross pattern over her forearms, Liz threw back her head and screeched.

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