Burnsville, Delaware; March 30, 1837
Blood trickled leisurely down her white neck. "Please, don't hurt me," she pleaded softly. The thin metallic blade dug deeper, sending more blood flowing down her neck, to her breast, and finally pooling in a small crimson spot on her pink dress. Her breath was quick and shallow with panic as her frantic chocolate eyes darted around the small room searching for a means to escape. "I'll give you anything you want. Anything. Just please, please don't hurt me." A small tear glided down her cheek. She pleaded with her eyes for the man to let her go, but that only caused his stony eyes to grow even harder and colder. He thrust the side of the knife deeper into the wound as a sign that no amount of entreating could stray him from his decision. His mind was set.
"You know why I'm here," the man grumbled. The young girl looked at him in horror. "You know what I want and why I'm here. Give it to me. If not, I shall be forced to let my dagger do the persuading, and he is not so lenient as I," he said in a manner so chilling, it seemed to make the whole house as cold as a tomb. And this house will be my tomb, Emma realized, if I do not give him what he wants. She nodded her head adorned with golden curls as if to signal that she was defeated. "Good," the man said. "Lead me to it."
The two walked through the stone cellar until they came to a wall. Emma reached out and pushed a protruding stone, causing a door to swing open. In a mad burst of panic, she tried to run past the man to the cellar stairs. He caught her by the skirt and pulled her back to him. He swung the dagger, still glistening with her blood, back to her neck. "Give me one reason why I should not cut open your neck and watch as every breath in your body ebbs out through the gap I have slashed," he threatened in his gruff voice. Emma sobbed as she gasped for air. This is it, she thought, I am going to die now. To Emma's extreme gladness he removed the sharp, metal blade. He placed her in front of him and lightly pressed the point against her back. "Go."
That was all the commanding Emma needed to continue forward.
They walked down the dank hallway for what seemed like ages. The only sounds that could be heard were Emma's consistent weeping and the hollow sound of their footsteps meeting the hard earth. The rich, damp smell of the cellar seemed to increase with every stride. No earthly being had been in this part of the house in years, maybe even decades. Whatever came in here would most likely fail to ever see the light of day again. Emma hoped that she would not befall the same fate as she had seen so many others do.
Her father used to transfer prisoners from his jail into this very corridor, just to see how they would fare in these conditions. They always kept walking to the end of the passageway, despite her father's admonitions. That's where they would find their fate. As she walked the halls, she was flooded with the single most horrific memory of her childhood. Since she had pushed it out of her mind, the memory would not have been triggered if it had not been for the skeleton that captor and hostage had just passed. The skeleton with the burgundy velvet pouch.
"Now, Emma, I want to show you why you must never enter your father's cellar," he had said. The young girl nodded her head obediently. "Follow me, and stay close by my side. No matter what happens, I don't want you to let the man out. He has committed a crime of the worst kind, and he must suffer a fate worse than death, just as his victims had. Is that understood, darling?" She nodded her head once again. "Good."
He smiled at her and stroked her flaxen curls. The girl smiled back at her loving father, whom she would never look upon the same again. "Bring him down!" he bellowed to some large, burly men. Emma recognized them as the men who would come every month or so with a new man in their grip. When they came, she would have to go into the attic and have sewing lessons with mummy. Mummy always made her plug her ears and go into the attic so she couldn't hear the noises from the cellar. But not this time. Mummy was dead. And Emma was a big girl now. Big enough to watch her father work.
The brawny henchmen brought a man into the cellar. He was small and skinny and wore a strange looking pouch slung around his body. This captivated Emma, for it looked like velvet and was of a maroon color. She loved how pretty it looked, and suddenly wished that it were hers. But she thought against asking her father to get it for her, because he had always told her to not be selfish and ask for everything she saw, especially if it belonged to someone else. She was so fascinated by the beautiful pouch, that she didn't notice the way the man was struggling and screaming for the mercy of his captors. She didn't notice how he was almost starved and ashen looking. She only regained her senses when the man grabbed her skirt and stared her straight in the eyes. Emma gasped out of terror.
"Please, young miss, don't let them bring me down there. Ask your father for his forgiveness, I implore of you, young miss. Please don't let them send me down there." She gawked at this desperate young man and let out a whimper of terror. Her father hit the man's hand away and then cuffed him across the jaw. The man cried out in pain.
"Hopefully that shall teach you never to speak to my daughter again. Only, I doubt that you shall ever have the chance, seeing as the future holds no promise for your well-being or even your chance of life." The man looked at her father with an expression of the utmost revulsion before he was thrown into the cellar. "Are you alright, my darling?" asked Emma's father in a caring tone. She shakily nodded her head and grasped his hand, preparing to be led down the steep cellar steps. "There's a good girl," he replied and slowly led her down the flights of steep steps.
The man's screams and pleas for help echoed on the stone walls of the underground room, making it sound as if there were a million men in agony awaiting Emma and her father. The pair finally made it down the steps into the cold crypt-like room. Her father still held her hand tightly as he stepped past the man with the velvet pouch and towards a stone jutting from the cellar wall. He pressed it with all his might, and a door swung open, revealing a passageway that seemed never-ending. Emma peered inside. The air was colder than in the normal cellar, and smelled like the trees by the creek after the rains come. A nasty, moldy smell. Didn't mummy ever clean this hallway before she died?
"Throw him in the corridor!" Emma's father barked at the big men. The man with the velvet pouch was knocked to the ground inside the musty passageway. Before the secret door had time to close, her father yelled to him "Your fate awaits you at the end of the hall. Just follow the light, and you shall receive your just reward for your crime! I, along with society, suggest that you go forth, but you may judge otherwise!" Just as the man regained composure and tried to run for the door, it closed on him, and he was left trapped in darkness. Everything was dark, except for the light at the end of the tunnel.
Emma and her father heard footsteps traveling away from the closed door. You'd never even know that one had been there. The man kept calling out to someone, anyone, but received no answer in return. The sound of his voice got fainter and fainter. "Daddy, why is he going to the light if you warned him not to go there?" she asked.
"Bad men, like him, are scared of the dark. They always think that someone is down there at the end and so they follow the light. He is weak. It didn't take much for him to go against my warnings. He's a very bad man, angel, a very bad man," her father replied reassuringly. That wasn't all of what Emma had wanted to hear.
"Daddy," she inquired tentatively, "what's at the end of the tunnel?" Her father looked at her, the spark gone from his eyes.
"The devil himself is at the end of the tunnel. He's waiting for the bad men to come and claim their souls for his own. That's why you should never go down there, darling. Not unless it's his resting day, and only I know when that is. That's the day when I come to collect the belongings of the prisoners."
"Why, daddy? Why do you need their belongings? Isn't that stealing?"
"No, child, it's not stealing when you take from the unjust. I use their things to sell, so I can buy you pretty things, like dolls and dresses." He patted her shoulder reassuringly. Then the screams started.
"Please, no! Oh, Lord in heaven, NOOO! Aaaaaaahhhhh! It hurts, oh, God, the pain! Please, sir! Let me die! Young miss! Young miss! Put an end to the suffering! Young miss help me to die instead of this agony! Please!" The screams were worse than they had been before. No mortal in history could be in more agony right now than the man in the tunnel. Emma clutched to her father with every cry of the man with the velvet pouch. She covered her ears and screamed for her father to make it stop, to make the shrieks of pain cease. Instead of comforting her, he stared with a cold expression at the clandestine door.
"A curse upon you and your family! A curse upon this house! A curse upon this land and all that shall dwell here! A curse upon all of you!" the tortured man screamed.
With one final roar of anguish, the sounds from the corridor were no more.
Emma cried out at the painful memory, which only caused her captor to press the knife deeper into her lower back. She had never gone this far into the tunnel. One could not tell what lied ahead, or even if they could get out. Although the tunnel was not a maze, who knows what twists and turns may materialize if they decide to turn back.
What were this man's intentions? Is he some sort of warlock or wizard coming to confer with his master? Why would anyone want to take the very essence of cruelty and human suffering that lay hidden in the tunnel? Emma decided against asking him about his intentions. That would lead to even more dagger wounds, perhaps this time lead to death.
"Give me the pendant," the man commanded. No, Emma thought frantically, not the pendant. Her father had given it to her, telling her that she was to wear it at all times, for it protected her from the devil in the cellar. The stone was one of a kind. No one knew from whence it came and what it was. Since the day she had been given it, Emma had never taken it off. Now, her very survival depended on it, and it was being seized from her grasp. As she didn't know what else to do, she slowly removed it from her neck.
Before the man could take it, she threw it in the direction they were going, hoping that it would remain hidden. If she was to die, which seemed imminent, her wicked captor shall die with her. The man screamed in rage, and pressed her on violently. Emma sharply drew in breath as realization dawned on her. They had reached the end of the tunnel.
The man pushed her into the room before them. She braced herself for what was to come. Nothing. Silence. Emma cautiously opened her eyes and surveyed the room in which she was standing.
There were all sorts of inscriptions on the walls in foreign languages. Emma guessed that they must be hexes of some sort. They keep the malevolence in this room alive, she thought. There was some sort of altar at the far end of the room, which contained a large open book on a marble pedestal. One would think that this room was once some sort of place of satanic worship. In the middle of the room, on a golden pedestal was a glass orb. It seemed of no consequence to Emma that anyone would want an enlarged crystal ball, but the man ran over to it nevertheless. He walked over to it and laughed. An unnerving maniacal laugh, which only the darkest of men will ever utter. He grabbed the orb.
"You have what you want, now let me leave in peace!" Emma cried to him. He looked at her maliciously.
"Oh, no, my child. No one must ever know of this. No one except for my dagger and I!" He lunged at her with the pointed blade, attempting to slit the flesh on her neck. She dodged him just in time to save herself from his dagger. Suddenly, something behind the man caught her eye. The orb was now faintly glowing.
Emma uttered a few guttural syllables, pointing frantically at the orb on its golden pedestal. The man turned slowly to face it and gasped loudly. "The pendant, the pendant! Where is the pendant? I have to find the pendant!" he screamed hysterically. He started running around the room and in the hallway outside searching for his one and only chance at protection.
"Won't do you any good to look," Emma said, strangely calm. The realization that no matter what, she would not make it out alive had struck her. She could not run, for the man was blocking the doorway and the tunnel was far too long to make it back. There was no use in looking for the pendant, she did not know where she had thrown it either. She decided to try and remain calm, for what else was to be done once one's fate is sealed? "You're never going to find it in time. You and I shall die here under the devil's instruments, all because of your ludicrous idea that you could contain the force that controls all evil." The man stared in terror at the orb behind her.
It lit up to a blinding red light. Emma and the man screamed in agony as the light touched their bodies. It seemed to come after them only, as if it were a living being. The red light felt as if someone had plunged a thousand red-hot pokers into every cell of their bodies. The pain was unbearable. Emma felt her soul slipping away from her as the light closed in around her body. She wailed in infinitely extreme pain as the blood-red beams blinded her.
How would the world survive now, with no one to keep the devil in his stone confine? The last two people to ever know the secret of the room and its evil withered away like flowers in a drought.